LETTER | There are an estimated 900-1,000 stateless individuals living off the coast of the Omadal Island, Semporna, Sabah.
On average, there are seven people living in a cramped space with limited clean water and without electricity. When the movement control order (MCO) was implemented and wet markets in Semporna town closed, this community whose main income is generated from fishing and sales of their daily catch, lost their one and only revenue source. The community is now living from hand-to-mouth and after seven days of ceasing seafaring activities, they have exhausted their food supply and savings.
Hence, Iskul welcomes the timely announcement by the Sabah government to provide the much-needed food ration to islanders off Semporna and Kota Kinabalu, irrespective of nationality. We hope to partner with the relevant authorities to help distribute the food. Our community learning centre, Pondok Iskul is located between the stateless occupants off the coast and the Malaysian residents on the island. It can be used as the distribution centre for the stateless population.
Iskul has a resident teacher and field coordinator in Omadal Island who is able to identify community members and helped ensure everyone in the community has come forward to receive the relief. If necessary and permitted, they may also be mobilised to purchase or collect the food rations from town accordingly.
We truly understand the Defence Minister’s intention to centralise distribution and restrict movement under the MCO in the effort to flatten the Covid-19 curve. In view of the urgency, Iskul only hopes to expedite and facilitate the distribution of the allocated ration to the affected communities in the shortest time possible and is willing to abide by the SOPs for the personnel on the ground.
Food is essential for the vulnerable community in order to overcome Covid-19 but not the only necessity lacking. The community also lacks clean water to wash hands and for basic hygiene. Thus, it is imperative to (i) provide a supply of clean water for drinking and washing purposes, and (ii) educate them with knowledge of basic personal hygiene.
Therefore, Iskul hopes to assume the leading role to gather support in addressing the issues. We welcome anyone who wished to come onboard in either of the two initiatives for the stateless community.
This crisis is hard for everyone, and for those of us that can, it's about doing a little more to help.
ISKUL SAMA diLAUT OMADAL is a community-run project initiated to provide basic literacy for stateless children at Omadal Island, Sabah.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
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