KUCHING: The livelihood of communities in rural and interior areas has been badly affected following the movement control order (MCO), said Suhakam Commissioner Dr Madeline Berma.
Stressing that the rural and interior communities were the most vulnerable group, she said the hardship was mainly felt by those who did not have legal documentation.
“Many rural communities who are eligible for Bantuan Prihatin Nasional had difficulties accessing the assistance due to restrictions under the MCO.
“And those without legal documentation, they are facing greater difficulties in accessing aid distributed by the government,” she told New Sarawak Tribune.
She noted that the indigenous community living in rural and interior areas were in dire need for greater assistance from the government.
“In reality, crisis situations always have profound impact on human rights, more so those of the vulnerable and marginalised communities,” she said.
She added that lack of facilities in most rural and interior areas in Sarawak had hampered efforts by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to deliver much needed aid. Hence, there was an urgent to increase facilities including mobile banking and medical facilities.
“The MCO requirements such as inter-district travel restrictions, have made it difficult for communities, especially those living far from banks to access their much-needed BPN.
“The communities especially in rural and interior areas are most vulnerable, socially and economically. The MCO has badly affected their livelihoods as they are unable to market their produce or conduct other economic activities, due to movement restrictions,” she said.
“Aid recipients are thankful for the govt’s economic stimulus packages, such as the BPN and Sarawakku Sayang Special Aid Package.
“But due to problems of logistics and facilities, the distribution of the assistance was delayed,” she said.
Madeline highlighted communication barrier has led many among the elderly to resort for traditional healer as a way for them to prevent from being infected by the Covid-19 virus.
“There is a need to increase the dissemination of basic information in local dialects on Covid-19.
“There is a lot of ‘fear’ of Covid-19 among the elderly in the rural areas. Some resorted to traditional healers and traditional medicine for ‘prevention’ against the virus,” she stressed.