More people are expected to seek assistance to overcome food shortages by the end of the year, top official says
A Caritas Macau food basket for residents suffering from economic woes. (Photo: Jornal O-Clarim)
A rising number of people in Macau will need food aid by the end of this year as the city continues to grapple with economic downturns in the aftermath of the pandemic, says a top official of Catholic charity Caritas.
Paul Pun, Secretary General of Caritas Macau said that the agency is expecting an increase in the number of applicants seeking assistance to overcome the food shortage, Macau’s Portuguese Catholic weekly Jornal O-Clarim reported.
Caritas in collaboration with the Macau authorities runs the only public Food Bank in the territory. It offers food aid to people who lost jobs and means of income.
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Until August this year, the food bank offered assistance on a weekly basis to 2,959 residents. Each registered applicant received food aid equivalent to 40 Macanese patacas (US$ 4.95) per day.
Pun said that in 2022 the number of applicants is “very close to what was recorded last year, which means that, most likely, we will see requests increase in the final stretch of this year”
The activities of the food bank were suspended for some 90 days due to a new outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic on the island from June to July.
Pun said that the residents had managed to survive using consumption cards during the period wherein the Food Bank halted its operations as per government directions.
“It was the consumption card that helped them over the last few weeks and ensured their survival. These are the people who may request support from the Food Bank towards the end of the year, in November or December,” said Pun.
The consumption card is connected to the Macao ID holders – permanent and non-permanent residents – to access government credits and grants.
Pun said that the residents relying on Food Bank are not necessarily an indication of poverty.
“We do not refer to these people as being poor people. They are people with low incomes,” said Pun.
To avail of the benefits of the Food Bank which is part of the Macau government’s social safety net schemes, a resident must earn less than 7,800 patacas per month (US $969) and not have more than 39,000 patacas (US $4,844) in their bank accounts.
The aid from the Food Bank is available for 10 consecutive weeks and can be extended for another 10 weeks. A resident can avail of the benefits for a maximum of 20 weeks in a year.
The Food Bank caters to the people through weekly food baskets among other benefits with additional support from the Social Action Institute of Macau Diocese.
The weekly food basket distributed by Caritas Macau includes pasta, rice, cooking oil, and biscuits. In addition to this, the Social Action Institute distributes powdered milk to applicants who have young children in their care.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony, has seen a rise in the unemployment rate since the Covid-19 pandemic which further contributed to the increase in demand for food aid. Its main industries of gaming and gambling were hit hard by long closures due to several bouts of the pandemic.
The unemployment rate in Macau which was 1.8 percent in 2018 had increased to three percent in 2021 as per World Bank data.
In May 2022, Caritas Macau reached out to hundreds of unemployed non-resident workers and provided each with 20-30 patacas per day with donations from benefactors.
Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China. It has an estimated population of 700,000 in an area of about 30 kilometers, including some 30,000 Catholics in nine parishes.
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