Noemí Jabois and Ana Maria Guzelian
Akkar, Lebanon, Apr 23 (EFE).- The clock strikes 19.14 at a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, but there’s no sign that it is time to break the fast of the holy month of Ramadan. Without much food or the presence of their loved ones, this special time is even harder than the rest of the year.
In a stiflingly hot tent that is completely bare save for two small mats laid out on the floor, Abu Yaser and his seven children wait for their mother to finish frying a small handful of cauliflower, potato and eggplant to break the fast for the evening Iftar meal.
The family was one of the last to arrive in camp number 22 in the northern district of Akkar, on the Syrian border, after fleeing Damascus because of fuel and food shortages, as well as the possibility of being drafted to fight on the front lines alongside Bashar al-Assad’s troops.
“Today we have nothing to make us feel like it’s Ramadan; we have nothing, we left our homes and our country. We have nothing, we have nothing left, what is Ramadan going to mean for us now?” this 31-year-old father of a family tells Efe.
Akkar is the poorest region of Lebanon and is home to tens of thousands of refugees who are especially vulnerable to the severe economic crisis that Lebanon has been suffering since 2019, the worst since the civil war.
With inflation last month almost quadrupling food prices compared to March last year and the Lebanese pound in free fall, NGOs face enormous difficulties to reach the needy population.
Camp 22 has barely received any help for Ramadan this year, Um Hassan, the “shawisha” or camp leader, explains to Efe.
“There are institutions that are helping us, but not like before. Since the beginning of Ramadan (on April 12) only today and one other time did we receive hygiene products. The supply used to be double what they give us now (…) We only received food once since the beginning of Ramadan,” assures the 43-year-old woman.
A widow, a refugee in Lebanon for seven years and mother of five children, Um Hassan rents the land on which the tents are set up and survives on a small commission she charges each family, some of whom have started to make their own bread as they cannot afford to buy it.