Low-income families in HCMC hardest hit by Covid

By Diep Phan   August 1, 2021 | 04:28 pm PT
The Delta variant has uprooted the daily life in Covid-19 hotspot HCMC, causing hardship, despair and food shortages.

For more than a month, wild sweet potatoes and some random vegetables from a wasteland next to his inn have "saved" Truong Van Phi and his wife.

At the end of a zigzag alley in Vinh Loc A Commune, Binh Chanh District, Phi strained his eyes to spot a few more leaves ripe enough to cook a bowl of soup.

He and his wife haven't been able to earn money for over a month. Using their small savings from before the city entered semi-lockdown, the couple bought a kilogram of pork, which they have been using to feed their nine-year-old son.

Truong Van Phi plans some vegetables at the wasteland near his house to incorporate them into his meal. Photo courtesy of Phi.

Truong Van Phi plants some vegetables in a wasteland near his home. Photo courtesy of Phi.

"Half a month ago, my wife went to the 'zero dong market' to ask for food. She managed to bring home some rice, instant noodles and vegetables. After going there twice, we heard some infected Covid-19 patients had also visited the market. Many alleys in our neighborhood were blocked," said the 53-year-old man. "Since we are afraid of getting infected, we don’t dare to go out."

Phi, having suffered a birth defect, weighs just over 30 kilograms. Previously, he had worked as a tailor for a small company in District 1. When the pandemic first broke out last year, his company had no orders and he was laid off. He switched to work as a tricycle delivery man.

His wife is also disabled and normally works as a seamstress from home. Before the outbreak, their monthly income was less than VND7 million (around $304).

The number of his customers gradually decreased as the city implemented social distancing measures. Phi and his wife used all their savings to buy 50 kilograms of the cheapest broken rice, thinking: "As long as we're not hungry, that's fine."

He then removed the weeds in the wasteland and planted some more cabbage. For the past one month, Phi and his wife's meals have consisted of nothing else. He worries they may have to beg for food should they run out of rice.

Tran Van Quy and his wife in Binh Hung Hoa Ward, Binh Tan District, also face food insecurity. The only thing they could afford to stock up on was one kilogram of pork.

Tran Van Quy and his wife normally sells lottery tickets on a handicapped tricycle. Photo courtesy of Quy.

Tran Van Quy and his wife on their handicapped tricycle. Photo courtesy of Quy.

Quy is blind. His wife has a serious heart disease, so her body is weak, which keeps her from working. The two have been married for more than ten years but have no children.

On weekdays, they sit together on a handicapped tricycle, selling lottery tickets. Normally, they operate around traditional markets, selling more than a hundred tickets a day. But from the end of May until now, no one has shown much interest in the lottery. Along the way, they started looking for charity groups that distribute free rice.

The couple has now run out of meat and eggs. These days, he and his wife often eat rice with soy sauce, with perhaps some donated boiled vegetables.

With the VND1.5 million in unemployment support they received from the city recently, Quy and her husband believe they could survive the pandemic, but their landlord dashed all hopes when he came to collect their rent, already 10 days late.

Quang, a 40-year-old disables woman from southern An Giang Province, has been living in the city for 10 years. The massage facility where she and three other friends are working had closed down at the beginning of May.

Having been unemployed for nearly two months and with their money and food running out, a regular customer of hers actively posted on Facebook to ask for help. After receiving enough rice, noodles and eggs, she asked the customer to delete the post.

"I only have VND127,000 left in my wallet and will avoid spending it since I still need money to buy medicine if I get sick and buy tampons. Luckily, the owner of the massage establishment has allowed us to stay here for free," she said.

Over three months into its fourth wave, the most challenging that Vietnam has encountered, the country has recorded 153,621 cases in 62 of its 63 cities and provinces.

HCMC accounts for most infections, 96,292.

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