05/18/2020, 17.16
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University students provide food to people in Depok affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

A group of 15 students handed out food to people newly impoverished by the coronavirus. In less than two months, they have provided 660 meals. For one of the organisers, their action is but scratching the surface, yet it helps. Since the start of the pandemic, millions of people have found themselves in extreme difficulty; two million have lost their jobs.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – With the coronavirus pandemic leaving many Indonesians destitute, a group of university students decided to take matters in their own hands and provide free meals to vulnerable workers, like rickshaw drivers and trash collectors, left unemployed and in precarious conditions by the lockdown.

According to some associations, millions of people have fallen into extreme poverty since the start of the pandemic and are struggling to get money each day for food.

So far Indonesia has reported more than 18,000 cases with almost 1,200 deaths. In Asia, this is the largest number of deaths after China.

“This is the time for us to act,” said 19-year-old Sherina Redjo, one of the university students behind the initiative in Depok, a satellite town on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta

On their motorcycles, the volunteers distribute food parcels four times a week ahead of the evening meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

For Redjo, what they do just scratches the surface of the problem, but no matter how small it is “it will certainly help” people in difficulty.

The group estimates that they have handed out more than 660 meals since they started in mid-March.

The coronavirus outbreak has cost some 2 million people their jobs in just six weeks, setting back by a decade the efforts made by  the government to eradicate poverty.

Volunteers collect donations on social media, and on a good day, they can raise enough money for 50 food parcels.

“I thank them [the volunteers] so much for giving me this package and I pray for their generosity,” said Bambang, a cycle rickshaw driver.

“We are focusing on providing dinner so that at least they can sleep with their bellies full,” said Luqmanul Hakim Yullyadi, 19, the group’s designated cook, who “joined because I feel pity and sympathy for many of my friends whose parents’ income was disrupted because of this pandemic”.

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