Govt might not have complete data, say NGOs

  • Nation
  • Monday, 30 Mar 2020

PETALING JAYA: A large group of civil society organisations and NGOs have appealed to the government to let them continue sending food and other necessities to the poor during the ongoing movement control order (MCO).

In a statement signed by 127 of them yesterday, the groups said many underprivileged and vulnerable communities needed assistance during this period.

The group said the government might not have complete data on who needed help as the NGOs which had worked with the communities for years.

“We are concerned that there is a lack of appreciation as to just how many vulnerable communities are affected by the MCO, having difficulty accessing basic necessities such as food.

“These communities include the B40, urban and rural poor, Malaysians who have lost their income as a result of the MCO, the elderly, housebound, sick, orphans, Orang Asli, migrant workers, refugee communities and many more.

“It is hard to imagine that the government has a complete list of all the vulnerable communities that need assistance, and will be able to take over serving all these communities immediately.

“The very suggestion of such over-centralisation suggests poor planning and a poor understanding of the plight of the poor, ” the statement read.

They were responding to Saturday’s announcement by Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob that NGOs would no longer be allowed to deliver food and other supplies directly to the poor and homeless around the country during the MCO.

He said the NGOs could deliver the food for the Welfare Department (JKM) and Rela personnel to distribute to the underprivileged and vulnerable communities.

Ismail Sabri, who is the Defence Minister, said this would enable more people to avoid close contact and observe social distancing, and to protect the NGO personnel as well.

The group said their work with the poor and vulnerable in society complemented the government’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“NGOs do not exist to supersede the work of the government, or to put the government in a bad light in any way.

“The concept of #KitaJagaKita is not meant to imply any failure on the part of the government – it only emphasises the fact that the crisis is so bad that all of us have a duty to care for one another, ” said the group.

Kechara Soup Kitchen project director Justin Cheah said that while the NGOs understood the rationale behind the announcement, there needed to be a way for NGOs to be able to work with JKM and communities.

“There are many destitute individuals out there who are not refugees and who are not registered with the JKM.

“We feel that these are the people who need to be taken care of. We are hoping to work with JKM to be able to still work directly with these individuals, ” Cheah said.

Suriana Welfare Society chairman James Nayagam said NGOs had a long relationship with the communities they served, which meant that they knew what each individual or family needed.

“Our donors give aid through us as they know how food and other necessities are distributed and who are receiving the items. There is accountability and transparency, ” he added.

PKR Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad spoke in support of the group, saying the government should see NGOs as partners in the fight against Covid-19.

“Disallowing NGOs from working directly with disadvantaged communities, including the homeless and migrants, robs our national response against Covid-19 of their expertise and familiarity with these groups, ” he said in a statement.

In Johor Baru, NGOs urged the government to work with them to deliver aid to the needy instead of restricting their work.

Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Awards (Imsha) chairperson V. Thanam said the government’s suggestion for JKM to carry out the food delivery was “not realistic on the ground.”

“On one hand, we understand that there is a need to restrict movement in times like this but it is not feasible for JKM to shoulder all the work that NGOs have been doing to help the poor.

“It takes a lot of advance planning and resources to come out with a centralised centre run by JKM, as suggested by the government.

“It is best to work together with NGOs instead, ” she said when contacted.

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