Daraa: Expatriates abroad and merchants at home activate Ramadan initiatives

Ramadan maarouk shop in Daraa al-Mahatta - March 18, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)

Ramadan maarouk shop in Daraa al-Mahatta - March 18, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)


With the beginning of the month of Ramadan in Daraa province in southern Syria, charitable initiatives and fundraising activities have started to send donations to charitable associations in the region or distribute them individually.

The initiatives include poor families with limited income in Daraa, as well as widows and orphans, and continue throughout Ramadan until Eid al-Fitr, most of which are organized by expatriates of the province, especially in Gulf countries, and merchants from within the province.

Expatriates abroad and merchants at home

An expatriate doctor in Kuwait told Enab Baladi that most of the expatriates from Daraa collect financial sums in their countries of expatriation to send them to their families in their region of origin or another area in Daraa, according to their knowledge of the areas whose children’s emigration rates are lower.

The donations collected by expatriates are organized by trusted supervisors and are given to the Al-Ihsan association, which in turn works to collect the names of needy families, orphaned children, and widows from Daraa, according to the expatriate doctor, who declined to mention his name because collecting donations for Syria in the Gulf countries could expose him to legal questioning.

After identifying the number of needy families, donations are given to the people either in the form of financial amounts or food baskets that suffice their needs for a certain period, and redistribution occurs again in the middle of Ramadan, according to the doctor.

The doctor added that all debts of the pharmacies in the city of al-Harak have been settled by a civilian initiative from the expatriate sons of the area by the value of eight million Syrian pounds, and one of the pharmacists dismissed the debts at his pharmacy by a value of two million Syrian pounds.

According to Enab Baladi‘s correspondent in the area, assistance is not limited to distributing financial amounts or food baskets. The work on providing bread for free for all families is increasing in the city of al-Harak east of Daraa, while it activates once or twice a week on normal days.

Nadeem, a merchant in the city of Daraa, told Enab Baladi that he, in cooperation with some expatriates, initiated the distribution of amounts worth 350,000 Syrian pounds to families and the distribution of about 500 food baskets, each costing 350,000 Syrian pounds.

The food basket includes rice, sugar, oil, tea, bulgur, lentils, pasta, a medium-sized box of halva, a kilo of dates of medium quality, and other essentials the family needs during the month of Ramadan, according to Nadeem.

He added that some merchants and expatriates send amounts to their families individually, and some shop owners, especially those selling food items, cancel debts for families and ask some occupants not to pay the value of their house rent.

In the city of Busra al-Sham, east of Daraa governorate, and the village of Samad, it was announced that bread would be distributed for free throughout the month, in addition to the villages of Khirbet Ghazaleh, al-Sammaqiat, and Samj, which are predominantly Christian.

According to Nadeem, donations from expatriates, as of March 24 of the current month, reached 10 billion Syrian pounds, and included, in addition to the food baskets and bread distribution, feeding worshippers in mosques at the time of Maghrib azan, in the regions of Saida, al-Mseifra, and al-Gizah.

Does it suffice the need?

Through charitable initiatives, expatriates try to cover the large need of families amidst the economic situation, especially since 2023, when the Syrian pound recorded its lowest value against the dollar, on the 16th of August, reaching 15,500 pounds, one day after the announcement of a 100% increase in the monthly salary in Syrian pounds.

The exchange rate of the Syrian pound against the dollar was 13,850 at the time of writing this report, according to the S-P Today website, specialized in monitoring currency movements in Syria.

Ghassan, one of the supervisors of Al-Ihsan charitable association, told Enab Baladi that the association distributed an additional salary with the basic salary to the needy families and orphans and widows, who number about 400 families this year.

Since the beginning of Ramadan, 30 million Syrian pounds have been distributed, pointing out that work is still ongoing even after Ramadan, but the distribution during Ramadan and the festive period is doubled, according to the supervisor.

The salary of an employee in the areas under the control of the Syrian regime reaches 287,910 Syrian pounds (less than 21 US dollars).

A supervisor in charge of bread distribution in the main bakery of Busra al-Sham city told Enab Baladi that since the beginning of Ramadan, many expatriates from the city have contacted him to pay for the cost of bread for the entire month, to be distributed to the city’s people as well as the surrounding villages.

Fatima, from the town of al-Nuaimah in the eastern countryside of Daraa, told Enab Baladi that on the 5th of March, nearly a week before the arrival of Ramadan, she received 600,000 Syrian pounds from benefactors who distribute financial amounts to families of orphans, widows, and the needy.

Fatima, speaking to Enab Baladi, explained that she lives alone with her two children, aged eight and ten, as her husband and brothers died in the war, her parents are deceased, and she has no breadwinner.

With the onset of Ramadan, the family once again received 300,000 Syrian pounds from the benefactors, as she put it.

Fatima stated that the amounts provided helped her secure the food needs of her children during Ramadan, in the absence of a male breadwinner in the family.

The humanitarian situation is worsening

16.7 million people need humanitarian aid in Syria, an increase of 9% over the year 2023, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR stated that the year 2024 indicates that the humanitarian and economic indicators in the country are continuing to deteriorate, and that the economic situation is “increasingly precarious,” and constitutes a major driver of needs.

80% of the Syrian population will require some form of humanitarian aid in 2024, according to the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) for the year 2024. Meanwhile, about 55% of the population in Syria, or 12.9 million people, suffer from food insecurity, with 3.1 million severely affected by food insecurity.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Daraa, Sarah al-Ahmad, contributed to this report.


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