Amid pandemic, the world’s working poor hustle to survive

Amid pandemic, the world’s working poor hustle to survive

Extracts of stories gathered by AP for Indian Express

NAIROBI, KENYA
Judith Andeka has seen tough times before.
The 33-year-old mother of five lost her husband two years ago and was left to make ends meet on just
$2.50 to $4 a day from washing clothes in Nairobi’s Kibera, one of the world’s biggest slums.
But things were never as tough as they are now.
Neighbors aren’t going to work because of restrictions on movement, so they can’t afford her services.
Even if they could, they don’t want her handling their laundry due to virus concerns.
“I haven’t had a good day for the last two weeks,” Andeka said.
She’s been forced to send all five kids to live with relatives who are slightly better off: “I had no choice,
because how do you tell a 2-year-old you have no food to give them?”
– By Tom Odula in Nairobi.

JAKARTA, INDONESIA
When Budi Santosa, a cook in a Chinese fast food restaurant, was told he’d be laid off, he wasn’t sure
how he'd tell his wife
“I am the breadwinner of the family. My children are toddlers. So they are the first things I thought
about that day,” he said.
The 32-year-old is one of nearly 2 million who’ve lost jobs as a result of the pandemic in Indonesia,
where poverty afflicts close to 10 percent of the country's nearly 270 million people.
“The government told us to stay at home, but if I stay home my wife and children will have no food to
eat,” he said.
Santos hasn’t had much time to dwell on his misfortune because he has to think about survival: Food,
rent and paying down the debt on his motorcycle..
– By Edna Tarigan in Jakarta.

CAIRO
In this sprawling and bustling metropolis of some 20 million people, the “ahwa,” or coffee shop, was
among the first casualties of a shutdown order for many Egyptian businesses.

No longer were they allowed to offer “sheesha,” the hookah waterpipe so popular in the Middle East.
Before long they were closed altogether.
That cost Hany Hassan his job. He hadn't been making much — $5 a day — but it was enough to feed his
family.
“We are financially ruined,” said the 40-year-old father of four.
Unable to find work in a relatively pricey Cairo he could no longer afford, he moved back to family in his
hometown of Mallawi, about 190 miles (300 kilometers) to the south.
But his chances for work there are even dimmer. Chronic back pain means he can't do the manual labor
jobs many people work in the provinces.
Jobless for over a month, he goes out daily looking for work but comes back empty-handed every night.
To keep afloat, he’s borrowed money.
– By Samy Magdy in Cairo.

AMMAN, JORDAN
Jordan’s wide-reaching lockdown has hit hard in al-Wehdat, a crowded, impoverished refugee camp in
the capital.
Brothers Mohammed and Khalil Yousef used to scratch out a day-to-day existence as truck drivers.
Mohammed, 40, hauled construction supplies. Khalil, 38, moved produce. Each earned between 10 and
20 dinars, or $14 to $28, a day.
Between them they have nine children all under 16. In Khalil’s cement shack, the refrigerator is bare
save for some tomatoes, onions and a few bags of pita bread.
Mohammed said residents usually help each other out in hard times, but borrowing from neighbors isn’t
an option today. “The whole camp is without work now,” he said. “Everyone is broke.”
– By Karin Laub in Amman.

LUCKNOW, INDIA
Mahesh and Gita Verma ran a flower stall outside a Hindu temple honoring the monkey god Hanuman in
this northern Indian city.
When authorities ordered a lockdown on nonessential businesses, the Vermas rushed to unload their
stock, selling flowers to regular customers for just a few cents.
India has the world’s largest population of extremely poor people: 176 million living on less than $1.90 a
day, according to the World Bank.

As of 2019, India had halved its poverty rate over the previous 15 years, fueled by growth topping 7%
annually, but the crisis is expected to set that back. Economic activity in the country has fallen by 70%,
according to French bank Société Générale.
Much of that activity was powered by workers in the informal sector — rickshaw drivers, housekeepers,
farm hands, shoe-shiners and modest entrepreneurs like the Vermas — who make up 85% of India’s
labor force and now find themselves indefinitely sidelined.

Indian Express

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