“This Ramadan is Exceptional”
Aseel El-Ahmad (43) leads me through her small home in Shatila Camp in Lebanon’s capital Beirut to the kitchen using the light of a battery-powered handheld light bulb, the same light her children use to study with. There is no electricity now. She looks at me with a sense of worry and begins to recount her concerns about Ramadan - how her family is struggling to put food on the table in light of the current economic situation. “We have gone through many phases in our lives, but never have we witnessed something even close to what we are going through now,” Aseel says. “Food security is crucial, but it is something we are having to live without given the financial hardships we are having to endure,” she adds.
Life has been extremely difficult since her husband has been unable to find work. First the COVID-19 pandemic and now the economic crisis has left Aseel, husband and her four children in a vulnerable position. “Life has been very complicated for the Lebanese [people], let alone those living inside the camps. There is so much uncertainty and I don’t know where our next meal will come from,” she laments.
“I always think about my kids and how I will be able to provide for their basic necessities. There have been shortages of basic food items like flour. We go to the market and it’s shocking to find out that the prices are increasing on a daily basis,” she adds.
Aseel continues with a smile marred with uncertainty, “Ramadan is known for being a special season. We have to put food on the table twice during iftar (break-fast meal) and also for suhoor (pre-dawn meal).This Ramadan is exceptional and unlike any other Ramadan because we cannot afford to provide one meal let alone two meals and sweets, something that the month of Ramadan is also known for.”
She adds, “Two kilos of chicken cost 150,000 L.L. When I do buy some, I ask for the smallest size to be able to cook it with some rice for my family. Even a bottle of cooking oil costs 350,000 L.L. We are living day to day, we cannot afford to think or plan for the future,” she says..
Her smile never leaves her face even as she recounts her life struggles and those of her children. She says: “I have to be strong for my family and children. They look up to me and I have to be able to spread hope in this house. Despite all, I need to be able to give them hope, as dim as it might be, for a better future.”
Aseel concludes: “We call on donors and UNRWA to support us during these unprecedented times. We look up to people of good will to help us carry on in these difficult times. Our suffering cannot be put into words, but I hope I am able to send my message to the whole world.”
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