Malaysians hoist white flags for help in lockdown

In a cluster of residential flats in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, 73-year-old Hadijah Neamat hung a scrap of white cloth outside her window in a desperate call for help amid the country's strict lockdown.

Shortly after, neighbors came by to offer her food and other items.

The #benderaputih, or white flag campaign, has gained momentum on social media in a bid to encourage people to help others in distress during a prolonged lockdown.

"I put up a large white flag and not even a few minutes after, some neighbors came with rice and things. I thought it would be outsiders who would come to help, like wealthy people or ministers or important people, but they said, 'We're neighbors. If someone puts up a white flag, of course we need to be concerned.' I was stunned."

Hadijah's husband has a disability and lost his job last year.

Since then, the family has to ration their food.

They are among many low-income families in Malaysia that have been struggling since the country was put under a nationwide lockdown on June 1.

In response to the white flag campaign, businesses, politicians and celebrities have stepped in to donate.

This is lawmaker Maria Chin Abdullah:

"It's something that this country actually needs because we can't cover everybody. So it's good that you know, you indicate that you need help and we'll come to you. So that is a good initiative."

Malaysia has reported more than 785,000 cases of COVID-19, the third-highest tally in Southeast Asia.

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