Ramadan in Yemen: Fasting by day, Starving by Night

Fatima Saleh: I have two ceaseless worries: hunger and eviction

ACTNews, SANA’A – Fatima Saleh (58), a woman from Sana’a, Yemen, told Al-Jazeera that she did not sleep in daytime as many do in Ramadan. She had to wander the city of Sana’a to visit neighbors and local shops, hoping to get something to feed her family at night.

This difficult condition that she faced during was in contrast with the condition she had before the war broke. “I used to live with dignity in my house, and Ramadan was my best month. The war has deprived us of joy every day. Last Ramadan was fine, but this one is very tough. We fast in the daytime and starve in the night," Fatima told Al-Jazeera in June 2017.

In the Muslim world, Ramadan is meant to be a happy and spiritual occasion, but in war-ravaged Yemen, there seems only a little room left for happiness. The United Nations warned in April 2017 that 17 million Yemenis were facing famine, barring urgent humanitarian aid from the international community.

The war that has raged on for years has pushed many Yemeni families to the brink of poverty and desperation. "It is Ramadan, and I am up to my neck in poverty. I need food for my family and I need to pay the 20,000 rials [$80] for house rent. I have two ceaseless worries: hunger and eviction," she continued.

Ramadan has also fallen at a time when Yemen is facing a severe cholera epidemic, with the World Health Organization estimating there have been more than 530 deaths and more than 65,000 suspected cases of cholera since April. This situation has made Mohammad Al-Mokhdari, another Yemeni resident in Sana’a, felt unhappy.

"Ramadan is a special time. Unfortunately, I am not feeling the bliss I used to feel prior the war's breakout in Yemen … Prices of food items are high and money is hard to earn here," Mohamed, a father of 10, told Al Jazeera.

Mohamed was unemployed, and lavish Ramadan feast is something he couldn’t afford. Their daily iftar mostly consisted of a little more than yogurt and bread. To be able to fulfill their needs, two of his young children collected plastic bottles off the streets and sell them to recycling plants, earning a few dollars a day. 

"It is difficult. We barely find the basics, rice and bread. Eating meat, chicken and enough vegetables and fruits has become a dream this Ramadan. Gone are the days when Ramadan used to have a special taste in my house and everyone's in Yemen,” he said.

Although Ramadan is just a month, the difficulty faced by the Yemenis has worsened their condition. Without proper nourishment, they can’t optimally fast and do their acts of worship in the month of Ramadan.

Andi Noor Faradiba of Global Humanity Response (GHR) – Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) stated that the Ramadan generosity from the people of Indonesia will reach Yemen once more. “Insha Allah, there will be iftar and suhoor distribution for Yemen, as well as staple food parcels to fulfill their basic needs. We are working to bring the best Ramadan for Yemen,” said Faradiba. []

Photo Sources: TRT World, Al-Jazeera, ACT