Malaysians are encouraging struggling families and individuals to raise a white flag and signal for help, so that the community can provide relief
Since the beginning of June, Malaysia has been under total lockdown—with only essential and emergency services allowed to operate—as part of the first phase of Malaysia's National Recovery Plan. However, the extension of this lockdown has amplified the conversations about the devastating impact of the pandemic on individuals and families, which has been ongoing for the last year and a half.
Many have been driven to hunger and homelessness, as a result of losing their livelihoods and ability to provide food and other essentials for themselves and their families. Even worse, financial distress during this period of prolonged isolation is one of the leading contributors to the rising number of suicide cases in Malaysia.
In response, Malaysian netizens have launched a social media campaign urging those in need to fly a white flag and signal for help, instead of suffering in silence. In a true display of unity, thousands have pledged their support to provide immediate assistance as much as they can, whether it is food, cash donations or other essentials.
The message to their struggling neighbours and community is clear: "There is no need to plead or to be embarrassed."
In a short time, the movement has already been able to make a positive impact on several households. For example, Malaysians rallied around 39-year-old welder Zulkiflie Samsudin, his pregnant wife and their young children, one of whom is disabled, by helping with his rent and car loan payments. Former health minister, Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, also shared on his Facebook that he was able to send immediate assistance to a Kota Iskandar resident in his state constituency, who was flying a white flag outside their home.
The movement has also gone online, with many organising fundraisers and arranging deliveries for those who are in need. It has inspired a group of Malaysian university students have created an app, called Sambal SOS, as a way for people to fly their white flags virtually and as a vital resource on where to find food banks and soup kitchens.
Concerned citizens can also report sightings of any white flags they come across, which appears as a red siren on a map for a week. To ensure the privacy of those in need, the founders of the app review each submission before they are available to the public.
Embodying the true spirit of Malaysian community and generosity, the white flag movement continues to garner support throughout the nation.