The economic consequences of the Corona virus spoil the joy of Syrian refugees and displaced families during the month of Ramadan

By: UNHCR Staff 15 April 2022 | English | Español

Ahmed was hoping for a relief for him and his family this Ramadan. But their celebration of the holy month over the past two years in northern Lebanon – where the 44-year-old Syrian refugee lives with his wife and five children – has been extremely silent, amid nationwide restrictions on the coronavirus.

But with Lebanon in control of its worst economic crisis in a decade – which has pushed up the prices of food, fuel and other basic products and pushed 90 percent of the country’s Syrian refugees into extreme poverty – Ahmed faces a The current Ramadan month is a war represented simply by feeding his family.

As a construction worker, Ahmed has only found three weeks of work so far this year at a time when career opportunities have dried up. He spends his evenings walking from shop to shop near his home in Mount Lebanon, trying to buy cheap vegetables before the shops throw them away, all in order to return home with something to put on the table. of the morning at the end of each day of fasting. .

“In the past, we were not able to eat a hearty breakfast, but at least we could buy dates and make a salad,” says Ahmed. “This year, we’re going to have a simple meal with just one or two ingredients. Even. French fries are expensive because liters. One oil is half a working day.

Across the Middle East and North Africa region, while coronavirus-related restrictions have largely been lifted, the resulting economic consequences are affecting millions of refugee families and the communities that await them.

This effect has been exacerbated by the financial crises that have gripped Lebanon and Syria, and most recently by the conflict in Ukraine between the world’s two largest exporters of cereals and oilseeds, which has led to a rise in commodity prices as p. sh. wheat flour and cooking oil for a third and a half in both Lebanon and Syria and Yemen.

“This year, Ramadan will be like any other day.

The result for many in the region is that instead of the dishes and festive atmosphere that typically characterize the holy month, Ramadan this year will remain a challenge in terms of providing basic food for fasting families.

Shamsa, a 32-year-old mother of two, was forced to flee Syria with the outbreak of the crisis in 2011 and currently lives in a poor rubber and wooden shelter in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. After recently facing the weather during one of the country’s harshest winters in recent history, the family’s future prospects remain bleak.

“The last time my children and I ate meat was a year ago, during Ramadan. This year Ramadan will pass like any other day. We will eat beans, which is the only thing I can buy,” she said. .

The same picture is inside Syria itself, where about 7 million people are still displaced and 55 percent of the total population is food insecure. For many people, Ramadan is a painful reminder of the happy times they went through before the crisis.

Khadija, 31, and her family were forced to flee their home in Homs’s Bab Dreib neighborhood amid fierce fighting in the city in 2013 and relocated several times in search of safety before settling in al-Waer neighborhood. ex-fenced in 2019.

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Khadijah says with a nostalgic smile on her face: “I remember how we used to cook a lot of iftar in Ramadan. Now we can only afford one meal because the prices have gone up. Every year – especially during Ramadan – we think it will be harder, but it is getting harder and harder. “

In Jordan, a recent estimate by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Bank showed that 64% of refugees live on less than 3 Jordanian dinars (US $ 5) a day.

“We depend on UNHCR cash assistance, but we owe four months in terms of rent. We also owe it to the grocery store. I think we will have to borrow more within a month,” he explains. Mahmoud, 53, who. comes from Damascus. Ramadan ”.

This year, UNHCR launched its annual Ramadan fundraising campaign that aims to help 100,000 families across the region and beyond, providing them with cash assistance and other forms of support.

“It’s getting harder every day.”

Even as far from home as Algeria, Syrian refugees are feeling the combined effects of high prices and the economic damage caused by the pandemic. Mohammed Adam, from Rural Damascus, says the help he and his family were receiving from their neighbors in Algeria has dried up as locals and refugees are feeling the same concern.

“Ramadan this year is more difficult than ever, because even the people who helped us at the beginning of the coronavirus lost their jobs and live in precarious conditions,” he explains.

As a result, he often worries about his family’s basic needs, keeping shelter and food on the table – while the usual festive rituals of Ramadan are no longer a priority at a time when many focus on the basic means of subsistence.

“For most Syrian refugees here, debts accumulate with at least one year of rent and the situation is becoming more difficult day by day with rising food prices. There are many people who do not have enough to eat. ”

Additional reporting by Paola Parachina Esteban and Dalal Harb in Lebanon, Saad Sawas in Syria, Lily Carlisle in Jordan and Marina Villoendas in Algeria.

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