“Rice ATMs” which have been set up around Vietnam to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic have been featured by international news broadcasters over the last few days.
The 24/7 automatic dispensing machines were invented by a Vietnamese entrepreneur in Ho Chi Minh City to provide free rice for people out of work following an ongoing nationwide social distancing order to curb the spread of the pandemic, Reuters reported on April 13.
It quoted a Vietnamese woman whose husband was among those to lose their jobs as saying the rice ATMs have been helpful.
“With this one bag of rice, we can have enough for one day,” said Nguyen Thi Ly, a 34-year-old mother of three. “Now, we only need other food. Our neighbors sometimes give us some leftover food, or we have instant noodles.”
The machine distributes a 1.5kg bagful of rice from a small silo to waiting workers, many of whom are street vendors or people who earn a living from cash-in-hand jobs like housekeeping or selling lottery tickets, according to the news agency.
On the same day, CNN ran a story reporting businessmen and donors who have set up machines that dispense free rice for people whose incomes have been suddenly cut off in several cities across the country.
In Hanoi, rice contained in a large water tank dispenses into residents’ bags from 8am to 5pm, it quoted Vietnam News Agency as saying.
Those waiting in line are required to stand 2 metres apart and they must use hand sanitiser before receiving their rice, it said.
According to Reuters, Hoang Tuan Anh, the businessman behind the idea, had initially donated a batch of smart doorbells to hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City before turning his technological expertise to food distribution.
Similar “rice ATMs” have been set up in other big cities like Hanoi, Hue and Da Nang.
“I refer to this machine as a 'rice ATM' because people can withdraw rice from it, assured that there are still good people out there who want to give them a second chance,” he said.
CNN also reported that Vietnam has more than 260 COVID-19 cases and zero deaths, numbers that are significantly lower than the rest of the world.
Hanoi opens first “rice ATM” for low-income earners
The first “rice ATM” was introduced in Hanoi to help low-income earners who have suffered economically from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Actually a rice dispenser, the “rice ATM” at the Culture-Sports Center in Nghia Tan ward, Cau Giay district, was opened to help poor people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and will run from 8am to 5pm every day between April 11 and 30 or until rice stocks run out.
The initiative has received warm support from many people. On the morning of April 11, nearly 5 tonnes of rice came from individuals and organizations and the figure is expected to increase in the days to come.
The model is expected to be expanded to many urban districts in Hanoi in the time to come.
‘Rice ATM’ comes to poor in Ca Mau amid COVID-19 outbreak
After the success in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the first ‘rice ATM’ has been set up in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau to help those in difficulties due to COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 10 tonnes of rice are donated by philanthropists and charitable organisations within one day (Photo: VNA)
Donors in the central city of Hue have set up a 'rice ATM' in the city to help underprivileged people that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.