PETALING JAYA: NGOs familiar with the homeless and migrant communities are prepared to help the government reach out and encourage them to get vaccinated.
Pertiwi Soup Kitchen founder Datuk Munirah Abdul Hamid said most of the homeless community are willing to get vaccinated but there must be no coercion on those who are not interested.
“There is a chance that they will not change their minds about it so we need to work methodically to ensure the vaccine supply is not wasted, ” she said.
One way to do so would be to gather the homeless at temporary shelters for a period of time to ensure they get both doses of the vaccine.
She said it was the most efficient way to do so.
“It needs to be done properly and if any other method was used, there is a chance that they might not show up for the second dose and it will be difficult to track them afterwards.
“They might also not return if they experience the side effects that come with the vaccines like pain or numbness. They could use that as an excuse to not get the next shot, ” she said, adding that Pertiwi worked well with Kuala Lumpur City Hall to reach out and help the homeless around the city.
Meanwhile, Refuge for the Refugees founder and director Heidy Quah said NGOs could also help the government build trust with the migrant and homeless communities.
“It will take time but it needs to be done because if the migrant or homeless communities are not vaccinated, we are all at risk one way or another, ” she said.
Quah said gathering accurate information on members of these communities would also be a big obstacle in the vaccine roll-out as such exercises were hindered by language barriers and the communities’ fear of authorities.
“Logistics is a problem too as vaccines need to be kept at a certain temperature but the biggest challenge is to get members of these communities to step forward confidently knowing that they will be safe, ” she said.
She said in its efforts to build herd immunity, the government could first engage with larger umbrella bodies with experience in humanitarian relief work such as Mercy Malaysia or the Malaysian Red Crescent Society that would then loop in smaller organisations such as Refuge for the Refugees.
“This way, the community knows we are doing all we can to make sure they get the support and protection they need.
“We are ready to work with the Health Ministry... so use us as vessels to communicate vaccine announcements targeted at these communities, ” Quah said.
Meanwhile, Rafik Shah Ismail, 43, a community leader with the Human Aid Selangor Society said there was no news about the vaccinations yet, but believed that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would handle it.
He said they had for the past three weeks conducted door-to-door engagements with members of the community in Gombak and Selayang on the importance of vaccinations.
“Most of us are ready and want to get vaccinated, ” he said.
He also thanked the Malaysian government for their commitment to vaccinate refugees.
In JOHOR BARU, NGOs are prepared to work closely with the government to assist in registering the homeless for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Insane Kasih (I-Kasih) head Zuraini Tahir said working together with NGOs, especially those who have been assisting the homeless for years, would ease the registration process.
“We have a database of the homeless people in town as we have been handing over food and other assistance to them for years.
“It will be easier for the relevant government agencies to register the homeless for the vaccine if they work together with us, ” he said.
He noted that it was also easier for NGOs to approach the homeless here as they were familiar with the volunteers.
Yayasan Suria Johor Baru founder and secretary James Ho concurred, “The relevant agencies should reach out to the homeless to register for the vaccine, instead of having them register on their own.
“NGOs here are more than willing to help ease the process and allow it to be carried out more systematically, ” he said.
In GEORGE TOWN, state MCA chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng said the Crisis Relief Squad of MCA (CRSM) had been conducting registration drives in Penang.
“We are aiding those who need assistance, like the elderly groups who are unable to read or understand the questions in the registration questionnaire, or those who do not own a smartphone or if their children are away from home, ” he said.
CRSM medical head and state secretary Chan Wooi Jin said they had conducted seven registration drives so far, with another six to be carried out over the next three weeks.
“We helped 700 people register through the drives so far and we hope to help more.
“We will conduct three registration drives on Penang island in the coming weeks, ” he said.
The three drives will be held from 11am at the Kedah Road Flat on March 21, Chowrasta Market on March 28 and at Macallum Street on April 11.
On the mainland, Tan said one would be held on March 20 at Taman Tanjung Aman at 6pm, two on March 21 at Kampung Baru at 8.30am and at Pasar Awam Sri Uda at 9am.
State Welfare Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had proposed to help the Health Ministry in vaccinating the homeless.
“We have a state government data bank on i-Sejahtera, which we are willing to offer to the ministry to supplement their efforts.
“If they want to, the state is also willing to help or supplement vaccination efforts and plans, ” he said.
Phee said there had been an influx of vagrants in Penang, estimating there were between 200 and 300 living on the streets.