20 years on, Mercy Malaysia still helps despite drop in volunteers, funding challenges

Mercy Malaysia vice president II Datin Raja Riza Shazmin Raja Badrul Shah and executive director Amran Mahzan speak to the press, yesterday. — Picture courtesy of Mercy Malaysia.
Mercy Malaysia vice president II Datin Raja Riza Shazmin Raja Badrul Shah and executive director Amran Mahzan speak to the press, yesterday. — Picture courtesy of Mercy Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — They are experiencing a decrease in volunteers and still find difficulties in funding.

But the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy Malaysia) is determined to thrive at its 20th year of providing emergency relief to communities in need globally.

It was founded on September 16, 1999 and gained prominence when they were the first on the scene after the earthquake in the Indian Ocean resulted in a tsunami that hit Aceh, Indonesia in 2004.

Mercy Malaysia started out with 7,000 volunteers in 1999, but are now down to 2,600 volunteers.

Yet, their efforts for humanitarian causes have only increased as they are active in many countries like Yemen, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“We want to be involved where we can be,” said Mercy Malaysia vice president II Datin Raja Riza Shazmin Raja Badrul Shah at a press conference here yesterday.

She recalled how the people reacted with joy and relief when Mercy Malaysia post-tsunami arrived at a small island near Aceh, called Nias.

“They were so happy to see us, happy to have food for their children, even though we could not make out what they were saying, language isn’t always about understanding each other,” she said.

“It’s about actions.”

It was also revealed during the press conference that funding continues to be an issue for the organisation in their efforts to provide emergency medical response, post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, and disaster preparedness training to those in need of it.

Executive director Amran Mahzan said the organisation hoped to raise up to RM500,000 for its Ramadan Relief this year.

The initiative provides food packs worth RM250 to families in war-torn nations like Yemen and Palestine, whose people live in famine.

Mercy Malaysia volunteers hand out over 600 food packs to families at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh last week. — Picture courtesy of Mercy Malaysia.
Mercy Malaysia volunteers hand out over 600 food packs to families at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh last week. — Picture courtesy of Mercy Malaysia.

Twenty four million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, with over 400,000 children below the age of five suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

Therefore, in a bid to aid their efforts and provide more assistance to their Asian neighbours, Mercy Malaysia will be hosting many events to try and spread more awareness about their causes.

Among the events they will be hosting is an International Humanitarian Conference in Sunway University from August 5 to 7 which will feature international and local speakers like Mercy Malaysia founder Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad and Head of UNHCR Malaysia, Thomas Albrecht.

Additionally, Mercy Malaysia has also introduced a new “zakat” initiative as an alternative source of funding for humanitarian works.

Zakat” is the obligatory alms that Muslims are required to pay as a form of tax.

They were appointed as a Zakat Collection and Distribution Agent by the Lembaga Zakat Negeri Kedah and Majlis Agama Islam Perlis in 2018, which means that people can now fulfil their “zakat” obligations through Mercy Malaysia, and be sure that the money will be spent as “zakat”.

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