Ramadan tough for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Lebanon, Banin (AP) — As is often the case on the first day of Ramadan, Aisha Al-Abed’s kitchen was cluttered and busy. I had to leave my food on the table at 7:07 pm when the sun went down and the all-day fast was over.

The traditionally cheerful celebration of the beginning of the Islamic holy moon around a hearty meal was silent and depressed for her little Syrian refugee family.

When two 21-year-old mothers worked with their toddler daughter, there were ubiquitous reminders of life’s difficulties. In a makeshift kitchen, she crouched down on the ground and cut cucumbers next to a single burner gas stove. In their homes: tents with concrete floors and wooden walls covered with tarpaulins. And, arguably, their Iftar diet includes rice, lentil soup, french fries, yogurt and cucumber dips. Her sister sent small chicken and fish.

“This will be a very difficult Ramadan,” Al Abed said. “This should be a better diet … After a day of fasting, one needs more nutrition for the body. Of course, I feel defeated.”

Ramadan, which began on Tuesday, comes as Syrian refugees’ refugee life is becoming more difficult due to the economic hardships of their host country, Lebanon. The struggle can be more pronounced during the holy month, when a festive feast to satisfy hunger usually follows after a fast.

“High prices are killing people,” said Raid Matal, Al Abed’s 24-year-old husband. “We may fast for a day and fast onions alone,” he said, using an Arabic saying that usually means to convey disappointment after a long period of patience.

Lebanon, home to more than a million Syrian refugees, is recovering from the economic crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic and blast that destroyed part of the capital last August.

Citing the effects of the combined crisis, a UN study found that the proportion of Syrian refugee families living under extreme poverty lines (equivalent to about $ 25 per person per month at current black market rates) is 2020. In the year, it swelled to 89% from 55%% the previous year.

More people relied on reducing the size and number of meals, he said. Half of the Syrian refugee families surveyed suffered from food insecurity, up from 28% in the same period in 2019, he said.

Refugees are not the only ones suffering. The economic turmoil, the culmination of many years of corruption and mismanagement, has put pressure on Lebanese and put 55% of the country’s 5 million people into poverty and closed businesses.

As the job shortages, Mr. Matal said more Lebanese competed for low-paying construction and plumbing jobs that were previously left primarily to foreign workers like himself. .. Wages have lost their value as the local currency, which has been fixed to the dollar for decades, collapsed. Mattar went from over $ 13 to under $ 2 per day. This is about one and a half kilograms (about £ 3) of unsubsidized sugar.

“People are kind and helpful, but the situation is dire,” he said. “The Lebanese themselves cannot live. Imagine how we manage them.”

My nerves are frayed. Matal was among the hundreds expelled from informal camps last year after a group of Lebanese fired it following a battle between Syrians and Lebanese.

It was the fifth refugee for a young family in Al-Abed, who traveled primarily between informal settlements in northern Lebanon. After that, they had to move twice. Once he said he could afford it because the Lebanese landowner doubled his rent and was assisted by Matal as a refugee. Their current tent is in Banin.

This year, the Syrians celebrated the 10th anniversary of the transition from their own uprising to civil war. Many refugees say they cannot return because their homes have been destroyed, or because they are considered opponents like Matal or are afraid of retaliation to avoid conscription. He and Al Abed each fled Syria in 2011 and met in Lebanon.

Even before Ramadan began, another Syrian from Lebanon, Lahaf al-Sagil, wondered what her family Iftar would look like.

“I don’t know what to do,” said the mother of three daughters who recently became widowed. “Girls continue to say they crave meat and crave chicken, biscuits and fruits.”

As her family’s choices diminished, her daughters’ questions became more dire. Why can’t I have a tip like my neighbor’s kids? As they say on TV, why not drink milk to grow up? Al-Saghir remembered shedding tears when her youngest child asked for the taste of strawberries she was watching on TV. She later bought a portion of her with a UN grant, she said.

In the case of Ramadan, Arsagil decided to stop her daughters from seeing pictures of other people’s Iftar meals. “I don’t want them to compare themselves to others,” she said. “When you are fasting in Ramadan, you crave a lot.”

The beginning of Ramadan, the first since the death of Al Sagil’s husband, wept. Her eldest daughter was accustomed to awakening her father for Suhur, a pre-fasting meal on the day he prepares.

A few months before he died of cardiac arrest, the family moved to a one-bedroom apartment shared with a relative’s family.

This year, their first Iftar was simple — french fries, soups, fattoche salads. Al-Saghir wanted chicken but decided it was too expensive.

Ramadan was in a festive mood before violence uprooted them from Syria. Al-Saghir cooked, exchanged visits with family and neighbors, and gathered around delicious delicious sweet food.

“Now I have no family, no neighbors, no sweets,” she said. “Ramadan feels like another day. You may feel more sad.”

In her struggle, she turns to her faith.

“I keep praying to God,” she said. “Our prayers in Ramadan may be answered and our situation may change …. May a new path be opened to us.”


Fam was reported from Egypt. Associated Press journalist Fay Abuelgasim contributed from Bhannine.


The Associated Press’s religious coverage is supported by Lilly Endowment through The Conversation US. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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