The Jakarta Post
As the COVID-19 pandemic strikes the Indonesian economy, with almost 3 million people having lost their jobs and 70 million at risk of losing income because of physical distancing, many people, especially among the poor and informal workers, are worried about escaping not only from the disease but also from starvation.
Yuli Nur Amelia, a 43-year old woman in the city of Serang in Banten, reportedly died of psychological pressure and hunger on Monday after reportedly not eating for two days because of the economic hardship her family is suffering.
Serang Communication Agency head Hari Pamungkas confirmed the death. “Our deepest condolences to the family. The woman died on her way to a community health center,” he said on Tuesday, as reported by kompas.com.
He went on to say that medical workers were still investigating the cause of death.
“We don’t know yet what has caused the death. The husband reported that his wife had no history of illness,” said Hari.
Kompas TV reported on Sunday that the family had barely eaten for more than a day. Yuli, her husband Kholid and their four children only drank water and ate unripe cassava from their garden.
“We can do nothing but feel sad,” the late Yuli said in the news footage.
Both Yuli and Kholid were wage workers. Yuli was an outsourced employee who was currently placed on unpaid leave, while Kholid, whose work is collecting plastic waste, has lost his income as many waste buyers are closed for business during the outbreak.
Hari claimed that the family had been recorded as one of the beneficiaries of aid in the COVID-19 response but said the administration had limited capacity.
Meanwhile in Medan, North Sumatra, a man identified as Atek reportedly stole rice from a stall because he was starving and had nothing to consume but water.
The 40-year-old living in Medan Polonia district said he had lost his job as a turner after the business owner closed the business amid the COVID-19 situation.
“I stole the rice because I can’t stand the hunger. I’ve received 5 kilograms of rice [in food aid] from the government, but I have sent that to my wife and our three children, who live at my parents’ house since I lost my job,” Atek said on Sunday, as quoted by tribunnews.com.
Residents beat Atek up after reportedly catching him red-handed.
Medan Baru Police chief Comr. Martuasah Tobing said the police had visited Atek’s house upon hearing his confession.
“The house is a semi-permanent building with a perforated roof. It’s true that the man had not eaten for days,” the police’s community development (Binmas) unit head First Insp. Hirla Rudi Suprianto said.
The Medan Baru Police later mediated between Atek and the stall owner and gave Atek 5 kilograms of rice, eggs and money to survive.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were about 24 million poor people in the country, or 9.22 percent of the 270 million population, according to Statistics Indonesia. The government has projected that millions of people will fall into poverty and unemployment due to the pandemic.