Indians living in Erbil offer free lunch, food baskets to laborers out of work amid COVID-19 lockdown
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A number of Indian nationals living in the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil have been offering free meals and food baskets to residents now out of work or otherwise facing financial hardship as a result of curfews and other measures enacted by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of these measures, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) imposed a regionwide lockdown in early March, causing a near shutdown of the economy that has affected daily wage earners particularly harshly.
“We are providing lunch [for] needy people–nearly 120 people per day–regardless of their nationalities,” Gangarajam Bodas, a 34-year-old native of Hyderabad who has lived in Erbil since 2011, told Kurdistan 24. Since 2016, he has owned a food and spice store there called Priya, which means “beloved” in Hindi, located in the Christian-majority neighborhood of Ankawa.
The free-lunch he offers consists of packets of plain rice, chicken curry, water, and curd, he explained.
“Most of [these people] used to work in restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, shops as laborers,” said Bodas, but with the lockdown in place, he added, they are all left “empty-handed,” and “suffering.”
“I felt I had to do something for them, at least feeding them a meal per day,” he continued, saying he wished “could do more for the needful people.”
Azeem Mohammed is another Indian national working in the Kurdistan Region who also distributes food to Erbil residents in need.
“I drive around in the lockdown time and deliver these packs to the needy,” which he told Kurdistan 24 include such diverse populations as “Indians, Iraqis, Nepalese, Filipinos, Ghanaians, etc.”
The baskets contain basic ingredients for usually prepared meals in Kurdistan Region such as; rice, cooking oil, chickpea, onion, and bulgur. Parcels also include salt, sugar, and tea packages. “The baskets could provide the beneficiaries the food of a week,” Mohammed said.
According to a spreadsheet that Mohammed provided Kurdistan 24 that contains the names, locations, and nationalities of the beneficiaries, 80 groups and individuals have been provided with the assistance.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as part of a series of preventative measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in early March, ordered the closures of businesses, markets, and places of entertainment, leaving many who rely on such establishments for their daily living without income.
According to the latest figures of KRG Ministry of Health, there 344 people are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in the Kurdistan Region, 317 of whom have recovered and four who died.
Editing by John J. Catherine