GOMBAK – May 14, 2020: Rohingya refugee Hamidah Abdul Subhan was awakened on the night of Mother’s Day by the agonising cry of her ailing 60-year-old mother and her heart sank as she attended to her mother, who was quivering in a foetal position.
She held her mother tight but she knew that her filial hug was not enough to rid her mother of the pain.
But it was the only thing the 23-year-old could do.
“My mother has high blood pressure, diabetes, gastritis and kidney failure,” said Hamidah as she held back her tears.
“The doctors cannot guarantee if she’ll make it. They said her blood needs to be cleansed as soon as possible otherwise she’ll die, but I cannot afford the treatment. I have no money,” lamented Hamidah.
Malaysia’s public healthcare is heavily subsidised and that has allowed its peoples to enjoy affordable rates but to poor Rohingya refugees like Hamidah, the sum remains a fortune they can never hope to afford.
In the case of Hamidah’s mother – Hasinah Shofi Ahmad – the fee for being warded at a public hospital as a foreigner is about RM6,000. A dialysis costs RM300 per treatment and Hasinah needs to do it three times a week.
With Hasinah’s UNHCR card – the United Nation’s agency that handles refugees – the hospitalisation fee can be halved but even this is unaffordable, more so given how their family has lost their income due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
“My husband collects and sells scrap metals. We barely made ends meet before the lockdown and now all of us cannot work. No work means no pay.
“I tried calling the UN for help but to no avail. They kept bouncing me from one staff to another. One even told me to wait. How can I wait when my mom is suffering?” she asked.
Malaysia has the largest population of Rohingya immigrants in the region, at about 150,000 large, despite not being a party to the UN’s convention on refugees.
But because it does not ratify the treaty, these immigrants – even UNHCR cardholders – are basically regarded as minimally-documented illegal immigrant and are not entitled to any form of government aid, making them the most vulnerable community during a lockdown.
As it is, their welfare is being taken care of by charities such as Human Aid Selangor and Preloved 4 Charity which have been distributing grocery parcels since the lockdown began in mid-March.
“Till today we have distributed these parcels to over 4,000 Rohingya families in Gombak, Selayang and Nilai,” said HAS co-founder Rafik Shah Mohd. Ismail.
“In past Ramadhan, we used to cook and distribute free breaking of fast meals but this year, everything has gone topsy-turvy due to the lockdown,” said Rafik.
HAS is a purely crowd-funded non-profit organisation. Those interested to contribute to their cause may contact Badariah at 019-3563836. As for those interested to donate to Hamidah may contact her at 018-2657284.