Bali’s remote islands suffer terribly due to COVID as many survive without food

Published on : Saturday, December 5, 2020

Chronic malnutrition that has worried the Bali’s isolated communities for a long time have swollen up as a result of the pandemic, and with a new wave of “COVID-poor” emerging in urban areas, NGOs have recently pinpointed the fact that several on the island are passing their days unfed.

With 60 percent of the GDP attributed to tourism before the deadly virus struck the world along with this island, In Indonesia, the economy of Bali has been the hardest hit by the pandemic, the central bank in September have put forwarded a report of negative growth of just less than 11 percent for the province.

In August, the unemployment rate in the island rose to 5.6 percent with 105,000 jobs loss – as per the Central Statistics Agency. However, with about six in 10 Indonesians associated with the informal sector, as per the International Labor Organization, the actual number of people out of work is much higher.

To quote Sarah Chapman of Yayasan Solemen Indonesia, “We see a lot of people who are hungry and haven’t eaten for a few days with no funds to buy food – thousands,” said. It’s a charity that works across Bali in feeding the elderly, disabled people and families, who were previously supported by relatives working in tourism.

To quote her colleague Robert Epstone, “Chronic and acute malnutrition leading to many other issues has been a problem all along. We were caring for 2,400 people before the pandemic. But it has become so very much worse clearly visible all around Bali.”

The eastern part of the island, Karangasem, is the poorest administrative regency in Bali. It’s northern half experiences drought all through the year and has never been part of the tourist boom that attracted millions to the south of the island.

There are many villages which doesn’t have roads, electricity, and phone or internet reception. Villagers survive on whatever crops they get to grow on the parched dirt, and money sent by urban family members who moved to other cities for tourism jobs and handouts.

DJ Denton, project manager for Scholars of Sustenance Foundation Bali, a charity that has been sending food to the villages in Karangasem since May 2019, have mentioned that hunger was by now a major problem in the east before the pandemic.

“We were already dealing with overwhelming numbers of malnutrition in the isolated regions of the east: villages of 15,000 where one in three people were malnourished to the point that it had created physical deformities,” said Denton.

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