Ramadan is a festive time in many parts of the Muslim world. Not so in Gaza, where soaring prices and poverty put basic and traditional foodstuffs out of reach for most families.
“People do not have enough money to buy the special foods of Ramadan," said Mohammed Al-Soufi, coordinator for Tarabeen Tribal Society, which has partnered with Anera to distribute food parcels in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. "The border with Egypt is closed and tunnels are being destroyed along the border, which make food products scarce or priced really high.”
Darweesha Salem is a widow in her seventies. Her sons don’t have work these days so her family depends on neighboring farmers to offer them some of their extra vegetables like some squash or potatoes. She brought her grandson Alaa’ with her to pick up one of Anera’s Ramadan food packages. She and Alaa’ couldn’t believe their good fortune when they opened the box, especially when Alaa’ saw some juice among the items and some cheddar cheese he could enjoy for Sohour, the pre-dawn meal before traditional fasting begins.“I can’t believe my eyes,” said Alaa’.
Each food package contains a variety of essentials like cooking oil, lentils, beans, cheese, rice, dates, sugar, tea, jam and juice. Anera was able to deliver the packages, thanks to funding from Zakat Foundation of America.
“In Ramadan, the consumption of food increases. I think that sugar, rice and cooking oil are the most important food items,” said Darweesha. But she says she cannot afford any of these three key items. One gallon of cooking oil costs more than $4, three kilos of sugar about $2 and three kilos of rice nearly $3, all more than the average budget for most Gaza families.
Another recipient of the Anera food parcel is Azhaar El-Qadi, who has lived in Rafah for 12 years. She and her seven children live in a one-room house with a small kitchen and bathroom. The house has cracks in the walls and holes on the asbestos rooftop, which make both summer and winter unbearable. Her husband is jobless. Azhaar’s five-year-old daughter is mentally disabled. Azhaar and her husband can put very little food on the table during the holy month of Ramadan. Azhar says they just cannot afford it.
As she sorted out food package, Azhaar explained the contents will feed her family for about two weeks.
“Lentil and white beans are good for Iftar meal, when we break the day-long fast. The cheese and dates are so very healthy too.” Azhaar said her family is so happy and relieved to see all the wonderful food iems that will make their Ramadan holiday a special one.
“We are so happy to have this food. My kids were delighted when I opened the door holding the box in my hands.” She smiled, “We live in very tough economic conditions and this box is our special Ramadan gift.”