Are Frontliners Being Treated Unfairly? – 250 Paediatricians & Malaysian Paediatric Association

The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) should be protecting the rights of all children and their parents.

Just two days ago our Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin described the health personnel and other frontliners nationwide as the ‘our national heroes’. He spoke about their invaluable and immense sacrifice for the nation and the risks they were taking by being in the front line of the pandemic.

He was speaking here not just of healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers, but also of the police, armed forces, food delivery drivers, supermarket workers, restaurant cooks, security guards, cleaners, garbage collectors and many others who protect us and keep our nation functioning in this time of crisis.

It is hence extremely painful to read the updated TASKA guidelines/SOP from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development – “Panduan Pencegahan Penularan COVID-19 Pasca Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan Bagi Keselamatan Warga Taman Asuhan Kanak-Kanak (TASKA)”

Front cover of the updated TASKA guidelines. CREDIT: CodeBlue

In Appendix 12, Section 2.1.2 it reads “Anak-anak frontliners adalah berisiko tinggi untuk mendapat jangkitan daripada ibu bapa mereka. Tempat yang paling selamat untuk anak-anak ini adalah penjagaan di rumah. Walau bagaimanapun, sekiranya anak-anak petugas frontliners dihantar ke Taska, mereka perlu diasingkan daripada anak-anak yang lain.

This SOP, revised 22nd May 2020, was circulated by Welfare department officers. We have confirmed with sources in the ministry that this an official revised edition.

In essence this statement is a ‘slap in the face’ of all the frontliners in the country. It communicates that “yes we want your hard work, sacrifice and the risk to your own health and that of your family, but we are not going to be there for your children”. Your children are ‘contaminated’ and should be segregated, preferably not even welcome to a nursery or child care centre.

The very individuals who desperately require child care, so that they can serve us at this critical time, are being denied this. We wonder if the Ministry of Health (MOH) was consulted regarding such a policy decision?

It looks like frontliners will have to walk around like lepers of old with bells around their necks to warn everyone or shout out “unclean”.

That such a policy statement can come from the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) is of concern. This ministry should be protecting the rights of all children and their parents, not eroding it and sending a message of non-inclusion and segregation.

What message are we giving to the public at large about all frontliners? Are we to shun them in all contexts like outcasts? Such thinking can easily spread to other areas. It also speaks of the way we have treated our migrant workers, their families and children recently, even after their service to our nation. 

We appeal to the Prime Minister to please urgently rectify this unfair decision by KPWKM and bring back inclusion to our nursery and child care centres. Frontliners will continue to serve the nation. Please support our children and families and treat them with dignity.

This letter is signed by 250 paediatricians and is supported by the Malaysian Paediatric Association.

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