Thirty-six organisations said they were extremely concerned about the alerts they were receiving from people who do not have sufficient food and were about to be evicted because they were unable to pay rent, stressing it was the duty of the government to ensure nobody was reduced to poverty.
The NGOs said many were already at risk of poverty before the COVID-19 outbreak, but the number of people requiring urgent and immediate assistance was increasing exponentially.
“As people lose their jobs or have their wages cut, their ability to meet the most basic needs and those of their family members is being jeopardised. For some, these risks will be mitigated by government’s support packages or by relying on support provided by social services, the community, family, friends, NGOs or the Church. Yet there are thousands of people who will not be able to receive this life-saving aid,” the organisations said.
Those signing the statement included Aditus Foundation, Alleanza kontra l-Faqar, Anti-Poverty Forum, Foodbank Lifeline Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, Richmond Foundation, SOS Malta and several university faculties including the Dean’s Office.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that there simply is not enough available aid to support Malta’s most vulnerable persons. We also note last week’s statement by 20 Church entities, expressing similar concerns,” the NGOs said.
Several impressive initiatives are being established or strengthened to provide wider community support to those facing these desperate challenges. The NGOs stressed that despite their limitations, exacerbated by the difficult economic climate, they were stepping up to ensure as many people as possible live in dignity in these trying times.
“Our initiatives are supporting several groups: children in care, persons with mental health problems, migrants and refugees, survivors of domestic violence, the elderly, men and women involved in prostitution, persons with chronic medical conditions, and so many more. Yet we lack the resources to meet the escalating demand for food and shelter. We rely on voluntary contributions and simply do not have the infrastructure to have a much-needed national impact,” they said.
The NGOs said it was the government’s duty to ensure that nobody was reduced to poverty. “We are unclear as to what plans the government is putting in place to meet this national emergency. No announcement of food stock-piling or distribution has been made. Little information is available explaining how existing social services and programmes are being strengthened or whether new initiatives are being established.”
Without support, thousands of people will be pushed into poverty and homelessness, they warned. “We are jointly urging the government to implement an emergency food and shelter initiative that complements existing civil society initiatives targeting the growing number of people who are unable to provide food for themselves or for their families, and who are unable to pay rent.”
The organisations also appealed to the nation to support those organisations providing invaluable community support in a spirit of solidarity.