How charity groups are helping the poor and vulnerable get by amid tighter MCO

Homeless people find shelter at a DBKL community complex in Kuala Lumpur amid the movement control order April 2, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Homeless people find shelter at a DBKL community complex in Kuala Lumpur amid the movement control order April 2, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are continuing to make their case to be allowed out during the movement control order (MCO) so they may keep helping those in need.

Malay Mail met several that help disadvantaged communities such as the poor, the stateless, the homeless and refugees in the city.

One was Buku Jalanan Chow Kit (BJCK) that takes its name from the Kuala Lumpur area it serves.

Chow Kit remains a part of the city’s underbelly despite efforts to revitalise it and is home to many poor families who stay in cramped single rooms above the shop lots here. 

Outside, they share the space with migrants, drug addicts and sex workers who emerge when night falls.

Since the MCO came into effect on March 18, BJKC has been helping 95 families in the area by gathering food and essentials for them, providing them with a vital lifeline when many of the day workers among them cannot earn a living.

Yet BJKC and others like it have initially been told to stop such aid work; authorities say they were not part of essential services allowed to operate in the MCO and were at risk of both catching and spreading Covid-19.

However, BJKC founder Siti Rahayu Baharin told Malay Mail the situation in Chow Kit supported the groups’ insistence that they be allowed to continue helping the communities in their care.

“Programmes like this are important as BJKC works in its own community and we know what is needed for our community. If we want to utilise the government funding, we would have to wait for approval and it will take time.

“Local NGOs know the community better. The authorities need to work with NGOs as we have plenty of resources and we know that even the government bodies are feeling exhausted in this condition,” she said.

Siti Rahayu said Malaysians were generous and ready to help when needed, and groups such as hers help provide a reputable focal point where they can send their aid and avoid being duped in their sincerity.

Those who want to help may contact BJCK at [email protected] Donations may also be made to Persatuan Buku Jalanan Chow Kit CIMB account 8602582269.

Dapur Jalanan Kuala Lumpur (DJKL) has run a soup kitchen for the needy in Jalan Panggung since 2013. The MCO has changed how they work.

DJKL chairman Mohd Ezzuandi Ngadi told Malay Mail that social distancing rules have made it challenging to keep delivering to the 300 or so people, mostly the city’s poor and homeless that his group feeds regularly. 

He also insisted the group will not stop its activities as the people they feed have no alternative.

“DJKL thinks that in an outbreak or any disaster, the hungry and needy will increase. So as responsible citizens, we feel that providing food is necessary and important to help as well as bringing these issues to the table.

“DJKL has received excellent cooperation from the Federal Territories Ministry to facilitate sharing and security controls throughout the duration of the activity. We will ensure that DJKL will comply with the safety and security control as well as our conduct in delivering food,” he said.

DJKL’s weekly servings in Jalan Panggung for the past two weeks were aided by others such as the Malaysian People Volunteer Corps (Rela). It is also working with several other NGOs in other areas, providing coordination and storage.

The group can be reached at [email protected] Donations can be sent to DJKL’s CIMB account: 8008984696.

DJKL also works with Tenaganita, Liga Rakyat Demokratik, and Refuge for the Refugees to help with 1,183 migrant and refugee families in the Klang Valley affected by the MCO.

They packed over 10 tonnes of rice, flour, potatoes, sugar, onions, canned sardines and eggs for the families to ensure they are able to eat for the next two weeks.

One co-ordinator, Hasnah Hussin, told Malay Mail the groups decided to help as refugees cannot work legally in Malaysia.

She said the four organisations came up with the idea to help as refugees were particularly vulnerable due to their inability to work legally in Malaysia, which was not a signatory of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Refugee Convention).

As Malaysia does not recognise refugees, they have no more rights and protections than illegal immigrants.

She said the refugees were not only at risk during the MCO, but were likely to be badly affected once the Covid-19 shutdown is over as they are not in line to receive any of the assistance the government has lined up for the country’s low and middle-income earners.

“Another risk that I’m concerned about is the refugees’ security if they are unable to feed their families and pay the rent. I can’t imagine for now,” she said.

Hasnah said by providing them with food, the community would not have to leave their homes and risk getting infected.

In times of need, she said it was everyone’s duty to help those they can and not just Malaysians.

Earlier this week, Putrajaya said charity groups may again distribute aid to the poor and needy, reversing its previous directive for such activities to be halted during the movement control order.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun said her ministry and the Welfare Department have developed standard operating procedures for such groups to follow when distributing aid.

According to the new SOP, groups wanting to distribute aid must show that they are welfare-oriented organisations.

They are also allowed to distribute only dry food or cooking ingredients, and must notify the state Welfare Department a day before their aid distribution activities.

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