Poverty reduction in Malaysia was steadily progressing until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The poverty rate decreased from 7.6% in 2016 to 5.6% in 2019, according to Free Malaysia Today. However, due to COVID-19, the poverty rate rose to 8.4% in 2020. Many argue that the strikingly low poverty rate is an inaccurate reflection of the true state of poverty in Malaysia as it does not account for costs of living and overlooks vulnerable populations. According to U.N. human rights specialist, Philip Alston, “Despite near-universal healthcare and high school enrolment rates for citizens and a growing economy, large parts of the population are being left behind and many people living above the official poverty line are in fact in poverty.” Due to these circumstances, several NGOs are tackling poverty in Malaysia.
Poverty in Malaysia
Alston explains that “Undercounting has also led to underinvestment in poverty reduction and an inadequate social safety net that does not meet people’s needs.” As a consequence, people’s rights to food, shelter and education are in jeopardy. Under the current circumstances, more than 2.7 million Malaysian children come from households that cannot afford the costs of school, and according to the World Bank, 15% of Malaysians experienced moderate-to-severe food insecurity in 2018. However, NGOs are rising to the challenge, attempting to close the poverty gap and end the consequences that go along with it. MyKasih and SOLS 24/7 are leaders in tackling poverty in Malaysia by providing inclusive aid to the B40 (bottom 40% household income range) community through education and food security.
The MyKasih Foundation was founded by Tan Sri Dr Ngau Boon Keat and his wife, Puan Sri Jean Ngau, in 2009. The organization is committed to the long-term goal of empowering the Malaysian community by providing more than just short-term relief. Its efforts in tackling poverty in Malaysia are directed into its two main programs, the Love My Neighborhood food aid program and the Love My School education bursary initiative. MyKasih’s food aid program provides impoverished households with at least RM 80 per month for only a year. This ensures people do not become aid-reliant and are empowered to become self-sufficient while being able to meet their basic needs.
By 2019, MyKasih had provided roughly 280,000 families with RM 260 million worth of cashless aid. In 2018, its contributions were recognized. MyKasih received the 2018 U.N. Malaysia Award for the “Leaving No One Behind” category, honoring its effective distribution of aid “through public-private partnerships.”
In 2000, teacher Raj Ridvan Singh along with his father and brother began SOLS 24/7 in Cambodia to provide informal education to impoverished populations. In 2005, Singh replicated the initiative in Timor Leste. Seeing the success of the endeavor, in 2007 he continued the initiative in Malacca, Malaysia. Singh moved the SOLS 24/7 headquarters to Kuala Lumpur five years later.
Through its diverse educational programs, the organization aims to empower the B40 community in Malaysia. Since its establishment, SOLS 24/7 has provided quality education to more than 500,000 people. The organization as provided more than 800 scholarships to the SOLS Solar Academy, equipping students with skills to thrive in the renewable energy sector. SOLS Community Centers provide training to marginalized and impoverished people, helping them improve on English skills, digital knowledge and personal development.
SOLS 24/7’s efforts are vast, showing its commitment to education and empowerment. Through these efforts, the organization helps Malaysians rise out of poverty by providing them with the skills and knowledge to secure jobs and establish businesses.
Efforts by SOLS 24/7 and MyKasih in tackling poverty in Malaysia have provided aid and educational services for the socio-economic advancement of B40 families. These two NGOs continue to offer benefits that empower Malaysia’s impoverished communities, providing hope for all Malaysians in need.
– Julia Fadanelli