Sun 07 Jun 2020

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Daily meal bags distributed only in Ramadan… Are they sufficient for people of Idlib Countryside?

Aid workers distributing food baskets in a Ramadan kitchen in Idlib - 1 May 2020 (Enab Baladi)

Aid workers distributing meals in a Ramadan kitchen in Idlib - 1 May 2020 (Enab Baladi)

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Packed in plastic or cardboard boxes, fresh meals, water, and milk are prepared by volunteers and distributed to the people of Idlib Countryside throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. In a scene that is repeated every year, charity food kitchens are actively engaged in the fasting iftar projects, which are organized by humanitarian aid organizations and foundations, and implemented by volunteers from the region.

The work of charity food kitchens decreases considerably in other months of the year despite the substantial need for them in many areas, which are facing a shortage of emergency food assistance and nutrition.

Zakat given as food

One meal is delivered to the displaced people of the Idlib Countryside camps in north-western Syria during the month of Ramadan, while there is no distribution of food for the rest of the year, said Youssef al-Hussein, a displaced person in the camp of Deir Hassan, north of Idlib.

Kaddour al-Ramadan, the director of the “al-Rayyan” camp, located near the village of Kafr Arruq, north of Idlib, also confirmed that the daily fresh meals are only distributed during Ramadan and that the displaced people do not get enough food aid during the year.

The director of the al-Rayyan camp justified this by saying that provision of relief assistance, donations, charitable projects to feed and support the displaced financially increase considerably in Ramadan because nearly most people pay their zakat (an annual tax on Muslims to aid poor people in the Muslim community) and increase their philanthropic activities in this month. He indicated that owing to the increasing demand for food; prices go up across all-region. 

Needs are greater than estimated

Hassan al-Shami, the deputy head of the “Sham al-Kheir” humanitarian aid organization, said that the organization is trying to open its charity food kitchen throughout the year, in light of the rising food prices and the increasing number of families that need food assistance after successive waves of displacement.

However, aid provided outside the days of Ramadan “is few and does not meet the people’s needs,” for the target groups are no longer restricted to the displaced, but rather include residents of cities, towns, and villages in north-western Syria, meaning that these growing needs exceed the estimated capacity of the organization.  

In addition to the days of Ramadan, charity kitchens were also running service during the attacks of the Syrian regime forces on the opposition factions-controlled areas, as humanitarian associations and organizations worked to provide meals for the displaced in temporary shelters and on the roads, Fouad Sayed Issa, a member of Violet Syria’s leadership, said in a previous interview with Enab Baladi

Insufficient food

Relief projects fail to meet all needs, especially with the recent wave of displacement in the countryside of Hama and Idlib during the past year, as the number of displaced people exceeded one million and 533 thousand since April 2019, according to the “Syrian Response Coordinators Group.”

A humanitarian needs assessment published by the “reliefweb” website, which relies on United Nations statistics, on 12 April, showed that 81 percent of the people in the opposition-held areas in north-western Syria face problems in obtaining humanitarian assistance.

About 49 percent of the communities (internally displaced people and residents) eat three meals a day, while most residents of Atme, Afrin, and Kafar Roma have one meal per day.

According to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Mark Lowcock, 2.7 million people in north-western Syria depend on aid for their livelihood.

 

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