In Vietnam, free 'rice ATMs' pop-up for those in need
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, several "rice ATMs" have popped up across Vietnam to feed the poor. These rice ATMs dispense free rice, contributed by donors, to those who are underprivileged and impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Vietnam has only reported 267 cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and no deaths, however, a 15-day social distancing program left small businesses shuttered and thousands jobless.
According to reports, rice ATMs have been set up in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Hue. Notably, the automatic rice ATM in Ho Chi Minh runs 24x7. The one in Hanoi dispenses rice from 8 am-5 pm. Local news agency VNA reported that by next week, Da Nang will have two rice ATMs, set up by the Da Nang City Young Businessmen Association.
The amount of rice dispensed varies. Reportedly, each person at a Hue "rice ATM" gets 2 kg free rice; in Ho Chi Minh, each person gets 1.5 kg of rice; and in Hanoi, people get 3 kg of rice—provided they all stand six feet apart.
Nguyen Thi Ly told Al Jazeera, "This rice ATM has been helpful. With this one bag of rice, we can have enough for one day." Her husband was one of the people who lost his job during the pandemic. She added, "Now, we only need other food. Our neighbors sometimes gave us some leftover food, or we have instant noodles."
The Da Nang City Young Businessmen Association plans to set up two rice ATMs with the first being set up at Trung Nu Vuong Street in downtown Hai Chau district, VNA reported. The Association's Chairperson, Ha Duc Hung, said they will later expand to other locations. The association has collected 40 tonnes of rice already and plans to operate rice ATMs till June-end.
COVID-19 was first reported in China's Wuhan city late last year. The disease is caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. The virus attacks a host's respiratory system triggering symptoms such as fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it may cause pneumonia, multiple organ failure, or death. COVID-19 has spread to over 170 countries, killing 1.28 lakh and sickening 20 lakh.