Anera’s Ramadan Food Assistance Program
While the Palestinian Muslim community was awaiting the beginning of the holiest month of Ramadan, in the besieged Gaza Strip, Maha was pacing. At least 56% of the population in Gaza live under the poverty line. Like so many others, Maha looked ahead to this year’s Ramadan with worry. How would she provide for her eight children?
“Here is this blessed month, and, God forgive me, I was looking at it with dread,” Maha tells us.
Her husband is unemployed and largely homebound due to chronic illness. The family’s financial situation left the 45-year-old Palestinian woman, a resident of Al Jela' neighborhood in Gaza City, full of anxiety as Ramadan neared.
During the holy month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and devote themselves to charity, reflection, and prayer. In the evenings, the faithful gather to break their fast in a meal known as an iftar. Meals during Ramadan take on added significance and must be sufficient to sustain people throughout the better part of the day spent in fasting.
“All I could think about was how I was going to put my children in the Ramadan mood and fill the table for iftar. I prayed for a miracle,” Maha says.
“All I could think about was how I was going to put my children in the Ramadan mood and fill the table for iftar. I prayed for a miracle.”
For the last two years, the devoted wife and mother struggled to get food on the table. She is far from alone. As Gaza approaches year 16 under blockade this summer, employment opportunities and social security services are severely limited. At least 34% of Gaza’s residents live in extreme poverty.
Maha wouldn’t end up going to anyone though. On the contrary, help, what she describes as a “Ramadan miracle” came to her via Anera.
When she speaks to us now, her voice quivers with emotion as she remembers the nerve-wracking weeks leading up to Ramadan this year. “Receiving this voucher for Ramadan brought me so much relief,” Maha says.
Maha didn’t apply anywhere for assistance, but help came nonetheless.
“One morning I woke up to the news that I had been put on this list to receive a food assistance e-voucher. I wasn’t completely sure what it was or how it worked but I knew it was a good thing,” she says. She describes the news of the vouchers as a “Ramadan miracle.”
"Receiving this voucher for Ramadan brought me so much relief.”
In Gaza, 69% of residents experience food insecurity. Given the widespread need, Anera prioritizes providing assistance to the most vulnerable families.
Trusted community-based organizations in Gaza identify families who are in the most need and share the information with Anera. With funding from Islamic Relief USA, we provide these vulnerable families with food assistance e-vouchers to enable them to cover their food and grocery needs for iftar meals during Ramadan.
By directly assisting families in need, our Ramadan 2023 e-vouchers program promotes greater food security for some 5,000 vulnerable families in Gaza, 2,000 families in the West Bank and 200 families in East Jerusalem, reaching a total of 39,600 people. The food vouchers enable these families to purchase fresh produce and groceries to cover their basic needs during the holy month of Ramadan.
The food voucher allowed Maha to buy enough groceries for her family for the entire month.
The first meal she prepared for her family after visiting the grocery store with the voucher is a popular Middle Eastern dish called molokhia, which she served with chicken. The dish takes its name from its main ingredient: a bitter, nutritious, leafy green plant reminiscent of spinach.
“This Ramadan has been particularly special for my family,” she says. “I didn’t have to worry where the next meal would come from. Each year my children crave certain foods and beverages that, in the past, I couldn’t provide. The moment I received my voucher, I wrote down my children’s wish list and bought all the food items they needed to truly experience the spirit and love this holy month has to offer.”
Maha’s story is a testament to the impact of food assistance in improving the lives of vulnerable families.
“This Ramadan has been particularly special for my family. I didn’t have to worry where the next meal would come from."
Gaza City Governorate
In 1984, Anera’s Gaza City office opened with three staff members. It is still at the same location today, but with 17 staff members. From that location, the team manages water and sanitation, education, healthcare, economic development, and humanitarian relief projects throughout Gaza.
This program is funded by Islamic Relief USA
The views expressed herein are those of Anera and shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the official opinion of IRUSA, its Islamic Relief affiliates, or its donors.