Oxfam and Muslim Aid reveal that for at least 23 million people, this year’s Ramadan has been one of the toughest for years

Published: 19th September 2009

International agencies Oxfam and Muslim Aid today showed that at least 23 million Muslims caught up in conflicts and disasters have been fasting this Ramadan in one of the hardest periods in recent years, with many having little more to eat than bread and water during the 30 days of this holy month and others having nothing to eat at all after sunset.
Muslim Aid Acting CEO, Hamid Azad said: “During Ramadan this year millions of people are going to sleep without food. In Iraq alone 5 million orphans and 2 million widows are living in desperate conditions. We are very concerned as to the amount and the effectiveness of the support they are receiving as the international community is not coming forward to help people with the much needed assistance they require.”
On the eve of Ramadan ending, six out of eighteen of all under-funded UN Emergency appeals are in Muslim countries. The number of people affected in these countries is at least 23 million people, which means that one in two people suffering from some of the most chronic humanitarian crises are Muslim. Oxfam and Muslim Aid have spoken to 13 different communities in Afghanistan, Gaza and Somalia who have all said that they have had far less food to eat during this period.
A single mother with six children living in the slums in Somalia said:  “I find it hard when there is little food, we can eat only once, it is very difficult to bear the fasting. On the rare occasions when we get enough food from the kitchen we separate it into three parts. Some we use to break our fast, and then some we use as Suhur (food eaten before fast), which is eaten in the middle of the night from around 03:00 to 04:30am. If I eat twice at night, I can endure the fasting. The third part of the food, give to my children in the daytime.”
According to UN figures, Somalia, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan are just a few of the places in the Muslim world facing severe funding shortfalls. Examples of the impact of this include:

  • Somalia has so far received just over half of an estimated $849 million needed in humanitarian funding this year.
  • Only half of the $650 million requested for Iraq this year to alleviate much of the suffering has so far been funded.
  • According to the United Nations, roughly 20% of trucks – carrying both commercial and humanitarian items – allowed into Gaza before the blockade began in June 2007, are let in today.

Tareq Bakri, Oxfam’s Middle East Program Manager said,  “It would be a tragedy if by this time next year the people of Gaza still can’t import enough food or if the 150,000 civilians in Yemen trapped in conflict are still receiving almost no assistance from the outside world. It is of the utmost urgency that the international community act on the enormous needs of so many ordinary Muslim families around the world, many who’ve lost their homes and their livelihoods.”
International humanitarian and development agencies Oxfam and Muslim Aid are calling on donor countries and individuals to assist and support the millions of people across the Muslim world that are in desperate need of assistance, from food aid and shelter to access to clean water and healthcare.
Muslim Aid Acting Head of Emergency Program, Mohammed Bali said:  “Many fast in the hope that they will achieve the highest place in Paradise. Muslims will fast even in tough circumstances because they find it a religious obligation difficult to refuse, even in tough circumstances. Families dedicate themselves to the month of Ramadan to worship Allah and to “spiritually transcend” through fasting. The tragedy is, once Ramadan ends, families who are fasting will go back to being families who are starving. Nothing will have actually changed.”

It is of the utmost urgency that the international community act on the enormous needs of so many ordinary Muslim families around the world.
Tareq Bakri
Middle East Program Manager, Oxfam

Notes to editors

Muslim Aid is a UK based relief and development agency established in 1985 and working in over 70 countries with field offices in Bangladesh, Bosnia, Cambodia, Gambia, Indonesia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan. We work with all in need, regardless of their race, religion, gender, nationality or political opinion and specialise in providing: emergency relief including food, shelter and medical support; capacity building through water, sanitation and health programmes; education and skills training; micro-financing and income generation in addition to providing specialist programmes such as orphan care. As well as supplying practical help, Muslim Aid assists communities in examining the causes of poverty and underdevelopment, and in advocating for a more just society and a sustainable future.

Oxfam has been fighting poverty and injustice for over 60 years. This makes us one of the most experienced development agencies in the world, and we now work in more than 70 countries.