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Covid-19: Starving Rohingya refugees in Gombak plead for help

Yusuf (pic) however is not the only starving Rohingyan in Gombak. Many of his unfortunate kin there were equally famished as well.

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

GOMBAK – April 8, 2020: Ever since Malaysia went on a lockdown to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, Yusuf Muhammad Abdul Rahman and his family has had almost nothing to eat, save for plain rice.

Yusuf is a Rohingya refugee who collects and sells scraps for a living and as a refugee he is not eligible for any government aid being given out following the movement control order (MCO).

“Sometimes we only eat once a day,” lamented Yusuf who used to earn up to RM30 a day.

Yusuf however is not the only starving Rohingya in Gombak as many of his unfortunate kin there are also in dire straits.

Malaysia has over 70,000 documented Rohingya refugees. Half of them live in Gombak doing all manner of odd and menial jobs to survive, which they can no longer do for now due to the MCO.

As it is, thousands of families are now forced to rely on donations by non-governmental organisations like the Humanitarian Aid Selangor (HAS) which also manages a refugee centre that doubles as a school for refugee children.

HAS itself, however, is running low on food supplies to distribute.

“We are really in need of food for thousands of families… not only for the refugees but for everyone in need in our area. Please contribute. Every minutes and seconds count,” said HAS co-founder Badariah Abdul Hamid.

Malaysia is currently battling the second wave of the outbreak and had, as of yesterday, confirmed 3,963 cases and 63 deaths.

Apart from daily testing, authorities have, since last week, done mass disinfection in several open spaces.

People have also been consistently reminded to wear face masks whenever they go outside and to always maintain good hygiene by frequently washing their hands with soap or by using hand sanitiser.

But these essential protection items – which have been selling out fast – were largely absent in the many homes of the Rohingya community in Gombak, rendering them ever so vulnerable to the virus.

“When we send food to their homes, we notice that most do not have the necessary items — soaps, hand sanitisers, face masks — they don’t have those,” said Rohingya community leader Rafik Shah Mohd. Ismail, who is also a HAS co-founder.

“We don’t have enough of those items to supply them. On behalf of the community, I want to appeal to all parties for some goodwill. I don’t know what to do with this situation anymore. I feel helpless. Please help us,” he implored.


Those interested to contribute to HAS’ cause may contact Badariah at 019-3563836. Donations can be made to their CIMB account: 8008389590

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.