05/07/2020, 17.26
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Masks, food, and money for the coronavirus poor

by Mathias Hariyadi

Most are low-income wage earners and day labourers. Millions of migrants have become jobless. Thirty university students raise funds online. Indonesian nuns have made and handed out protective masks. Donations of food and sanitary items are pouring in.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Millions of Indonesians are suffering as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Several Catholic groups have mobilised to help them.

Despite enormous difficulties, many local civil society groups are reacting to the pandemic crisis with great generosity. Although people with the infection have been rejected in some communities, and some of those who died from the virus have been denied the right to be buried, the spirit of sharing seems to prevail in the country.

The government has not imposed rigid social confinement and distancing measures, but has opted instead for large-scale social restrictions.[*] This has meant reduced working hours in offices, closed entertainment venues and shops, and limits on travel.

The movement of goods remains active, as are emergency services. Banks and pharmacies are also open. However, this has not prevented job losses, especially among the millions of migrants, mostly low-income workers and day labourers, who left Jakarta for their villages, where the cost of living is lower.

Catholics are also contributing, sometimes spontaneously, as in the case of 30 Java university students who set up Instagram account to identify the most vulnerable people and raise money in support of COVID-19 victims  So far, they have raised some 42 million Indonesian rupees (almost US,800), a good figure for such a small group.

"We wanted to put our know-how and creativity to help people in difficulty,” said Odilia "Odi" Stefani Salim, a pharmacy student at Airlangga University (UNAIR) in Surabaya (East Java), speaking to AsiaNews.

Gregorius Aditya Kevin, who lost a leg in a car accident, is studying accounting at Surakarta State University. He explained the he and his fellow university students undertook this initiative out of compassion for the many people affected by the crisis.

Indonesian nuns also got involved. The Abdi Kristus Congregation is distributing chicken soup and essential items to the neediest. In West Kalimantan province and Central Jakarta and West Jakarta, nuns have made protective masks, which they handed out to local residents.

The Archdiocese of Jakarta and other Indonesian Catholic organisations have done the same, providing food and sanitary products, in particular to Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals.

[*] Pembatasan Sosial Skala Besar.

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