Refugees risk starvation as NGOs struggle with food stock

KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of Rohingya refugees in the city may be left to starve as the NGOs which had been helping them during the movement control order (MCO) run out of food.

Mohammad Sadek Ali Hussain from Ampang, where some 600 refugee families reside, said at least four NGOs had run out of stock.

“We don’t have enough food or supplies. We’ve never been employed, and we don’t have any savings or any regular income. We are struggling to survive,” Sadek, a volunteer teacher for a refugee school, told FMT.

“Everything is expensive and a lot of things have run out,” he added.

Sadek said his salary was paid through contributions from the public.

Since the start of the MCO last month, he has been distributing food items donated by individuals to refugees in his area.

He said many Rohingya were hesitant to get themselves screened for Covid-19 at government facilities, despite Putrajaya’s assurance that their immigration status would not get them into trouble.

“They are worried because if they’re suspected (of being infected), they will be taken to isolation. They don’t have a lot of money, they might lose everything,” he said.

He said many refugees told him they were still charged with registration fees for screening, which could range between RM20 and RM40 for UNHCR cardholders, and double that amount for those without documents.

Sadek also said authorities have yet to deliver aid such as food to his community, while NGOs have been struggling to assist them.

There are an estimated 200,000 documented refugees in Malaysia. Many of them carry travel documents issued by UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but are not recognised as such by the government.

Sadek said there were some organisations which think the welfare of Rohingya Muslims is being taken care of by the government as well as local mosques and Muslim organisations.

He said many Muslim groups also assume that UNCHR is already helping them.

“My request is, to every single human being in the society, no matter where, please come forward to assist the refugees,” Sadek added.

Rohingya in other cities are also affected by the lack of resources to help them during the MCO.

Support group Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Mehrom) is among those which have been distributing food packs to about 1,000 Rohingya families nationwide.

But Mehrom said many in Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Johor are still struggling.

“Every day I hear things from other states. People crying, calling me and asking for help,” said Mehrom president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani.

He thanked government agencies and independent groups trying their best to help the refugees.

“It’s not just us refugees who are struggling, Malaysians themselves are also struggling.

“We thank the Malaysian government for whatever support they are giving,” he added.

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