KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — Putrajaya’s announcement yesterday that NGOs would no longer be permitted to send their food and aid supplies directly to their beneficiaries, is intended to protect them from contracting Covid-19, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today.
During his daily briefing, Ismail spoke of the government’s continued gratitude for the efforts of non-government organisations (NGOs) who are seen as consistent and valuable partners in helping those in need and in times of humanitarian crisis.
However, he emphasised that the government’s decision to restrict the activities of NGOs in delivering aid directly during the movement control order (MCO) was based on the concern that those engaged in such activities could unknowingly be infected by the very people they were helping.
“We received advice from the Ministry of Health. We want to safeguard the safety of NGO personnel. We don’t know whether or not the people they are helping are infected. We fear that if the NGO staff get infected, they could also infect their families and others.”
“The Ministry of Health is of the opinion that even though they might want to provide assistance and support, their health and lives should be of utmost importance.”
“That is why the decision was made. NGOs should understand this rationale. We will get their perspectives and discuss at the special committee level to decide the best way forward to help ensure their asisstance gets to those who need it,” he said.
“I have been receiving feedback and ideas on this since last night,” he said.
He also indicated that there would be food assistance worth RM5.8 million which would be distributed through the government machinery, specifically the Welfare Department, to those who qualify.
He did not indicate when the consultation with NGOs would happen and whether their inputs would be considered in the upcoming revision of the MCO’s standard operating procedures (SOP).
Yesterday, after the announcement, 127 NGOs and charities made an appeal to the government to reconsider the directive and allow them to work. They felt that the government might be underestimating the effort needed to take over the existing assistance provided by the NGOs.
They offered to work together with the government to ensure that the food, medicine and other aid be delivered in a safe and responsible way.