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‘Urban poor’ finds it harder to cope during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many individuals and families to fall into poverty after losing their source of income. Also known as the ‘new poor’, their cries for help have raised the alarm and many parties have stepped forward to provide aid.

To understand what is really happening, Catholics@Home podcast had a conversation with Dr Hartini Zainudin, co-founder of Yayasan Chow Kit, and Arnaud Marolleau, Vice President of The Giving Bank. Yayasan Chow Kit is a non-profit organisation which caters to the needs of children and teenagers in and around the Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur.

The Giving Bank is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which works with all strata of society to overcome extreme poverty and injustice.

Dr Hartini said that even though her work at Yayasan Chow Kit revolves around children, it has extended to all levels of society during the pandemic. There came a point where up to 100 families were requesting help daily.

Her work with the destitute led Dr Hartini to encounter many heart-breaking stories. She related a case where a mother with four children was given RM200 to last a month. The mother then sent Dr Hartini a photo of her daughter eating plain porridge. When Dr Hartini queried why the RM200 was not used to provide nutritious food for the child, the mother confessed that she had used the money for rent.

Dr Hartini says, “I think it’s lofty and condescending in many ways to say, ‘we do what we can’ because … we need to do more!!

“We need to share resources with a lot more people, because if we don’t, children and the elderly will die.

“It can get overwhelming, but if we help one family or one person at a time, and everyone pitches in, that will cover the whole country,” she says.

The second guest in the conversation, Arnaud Marolleau, says that the pandemic is not only about the existing poor but is also about people who have become the ‘urban poor’.

“The existing poor have already learnt to manage their lives with a limited budget. However, the ‘urban poor’ are people who have never experienced this massive change,” says Marolleau, a native of France who has made Malaysia his home for the past 25 years.

He shared an incident when he distributed food to a family in Brickfields. While handing the food to the family, a large crowd gathered around his car asking for food too.

“People are really in need, and we see their frustration when they seek help from many places. The lockdown has pushed people over the edge. It’s overwhelming as we don’t see the end of it,” he says.

Responding to a question on the need to develop a platform where NGOs and charitable organisations can leverage each other’s resources, Dr Hartini opines that such a platform is not necessary.

“This pandemic is a short-term crisis and not a corporate social responsibility initiative. There is no time to develop such a platform. Aid must be sent to the needy immediately,” she said.

To view this podcast, go to:

SOURCE: Herald Malaysia Online

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