Conflicts, economic hardships overshadow Ramadan in Mideast

For millions of starving Palestinians, the raging Gaza crisis and bloodshed seem to render any thought of festivity utterly absurd.

2 mins read
People are seen during Ramadan in Jerusalem's Old City, on March 12, 2024. (Photo by Jamal Awad/Xinhua)

This year’s Ramadan is like no other. The holy month, observed by Muslims worldwide as a time of fasting, prayer, and reflection, is marred by the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Sudan, as well as economic hardships that diminish the joy of many.

BLOODSHED CONTINUES

For millions of starving Palestinians, the raging Gaza crisis and bloodshed seem to render any thought of festivity utterly absurd.

Israeli warplanes continue to carry out airstrikes in various areas of the Gaza Strip, causing fresh deaths every day. The last effort to reach a truce before Ramadan broke down last week with the two sides blaming each other for failing to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, a famine looms large in the besieged enclave with at least 20 having died from malnutrition and dehydration in northern Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

The aid that trickles to the besieged enclave fell far short of feeding a population of over 2 million. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has said that in February an average of nearly 97 trucks were able to enter Gaza each day — far below the target of 500 trucks a day.

Adding to the tragedy is the crumbling social order amid the crisis. “The canned goods that we are supposed to receive as aid are stolen and sold in local markets at exorbitant prices, which I cannot afford,” said Amina Al-Ashi, a mother of six in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Ashi used to live in her own house in the al-Rimal neighborhood in central Gaza City and worked in a women’s clothing store until the conflict broke out in October last year. The relentless Israeli airstrikes forced her to relocate several times before reaching the southernmost city of Rafah, where she lived in a makeshift tent near the border with Egypt.

Meanwhile, the spillover of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including conflicts at the Israel-Lebanon border and tensions at the Red Sea, also shows no signs of abating as Ramadan begins. The Houthis have said their attacks will not stop until Israel stops its assault and lifts the blockade on the Palestinian people in Gaza.

In Sudan, where a civil war has been raging on for almost a year, the warring parties continued fighting despite a recent resolution by the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire.

CRUMBLING ECONOMY

In places where people are spared from airstrikes and shellings, the collapsing economies are nonetheless taking a toll on their lives, casting a pall over the season’s customary joy.

In Syria, inflation is accelerating ever more rapidly, pushing the living costs to a level unmanageable for many.

“There is a real struggle in the country as Syria’s food security is hit at its core. Syria has turned from a country that was self-sufficient in wheat to a country that imports 70 to 80 percent of its needs,” said Hayam Ali, the editor-in-chief of the Syria-Steps economic news website.

She noted that the economic blockade and sanctions imposed on Syria have exacerbated the situation, leading to a scarcity of essential materials and supplies needed for production.

In Yemen, the conflict, embargo, and monetary collapse have sent prices soaring, plunging a majority of Yemenis into extreme poverty. For many, survival hinges on international assistance.

The World Food Program has sounded the alarm on Yemen’s hunger crisis, with approximately 17 million individuals grappling with food insecurity and 2.2 million children suffering from acute malnutrition.

In Lebanon, a country gripped by a financial crisis since 2019, shopping for Ramadan could be challenging as prices have gone up remarkably.

A monthly economic publication by Credit Libanais, a Lebanese bank, said that Lebanon’s annual inflation rate in 2023 reached 221.34 percent, with food prices increasing by 207.6 percent.

Ferial Hamaoui, a part-time teacher at a university and a mother of three, said she could only afford to eat meat once a month.

“The financial crisis deprived us of celebrating Ramadan and feeling the joyful atmosphere in this holy month,” she said.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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