Qatari charity feeds expat workers in virus limbo

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Doha (AFP)

Volunteers stack thousands of trays of steaming curry in a Doha kitchen, readying them to be distributed to low-income migrant workers facing food shortages while under lockdown due to COVID-19.

The NGO Qatar Charity launched an initiative in recent weeks to deliver daily meals to around 4,000 migrant workers, many confined in the working-class Industrial Area in the south of the capital Doha.

Tens of thousands of residents were quarantined in the area after cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed among the community last month.

The area faced food shortages in the early days of the lockdown, according to residents, diplomats and NGOs, with reports that stores hiked prices to unaffordable levels.

In response to a government request, Qatar Charity started distributing meals out of four kitchens, one of which was lent to the group by a restaurant better known for fine dining.

"We want everyone to feel there are people who care about them, that they're not alone," said Qatar Charity volunteering supervisor Mohammed Ali al-Ghamdi, as around him over a dozen volunteers packed meals and loaded them onto a decontaminated delivery van.

"Labourers in Doha do an amazing job, this is thanks from the community."

Gas-rich Qatar -- home to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers -- has reported seven deaths from the COVID-19 disease and 4,103 cases so far.

Qatari officials have said they are considering easing the lockdown on the Industrial Area after undertaking widespread testing, detection and treatment.

The district has been ringed with police checkpoints and a sterilisation unit deployed to disinfect delivery vehicles.