12 Jul 2013 11:19
BEKAA, Syria, July 11 (Bernama) -- Syrian refugees in Lebanon welcomed Ramadan with sighs of despondency rather than joy that usually accompanies the celebration of the holy month of Islam, expressing hope it would be their last Ramadan observed away from home. Forced displacement, loss of family members and friends and poor living conditions have all weighed down on Ramadan festivity in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a border area where many refugees have fled to from neighbouring Syria. Xinhua news agency reports according to the United Nations (UN) Higher Council for Refugees, some 587,000 Syrians are receiving aid from the UN, the Lebanese government and non-governmental organisations across the country. Salwa Al Amashi, a Syrian displaced from Damascus, pointed to an old wooden pantry in a dark corner of her room, saying what she managed to get out of the aid in the past week was far from enough to prepare proper Iftar meals for her seven children for the coming 30 days. Afifa El nouri, another refugee from the devastated province of Aleppo, complained about price hikes in the markets due to the Ramadan celebration. "I went with my husband to a market place to buy some vegetables and meat as well as some sweets, but the merchants took advantage of Ramadan and raised the prices by about 20 percent. All we bought was eggs, potatoes and a small quantity of vegetables," she said. "An Iftar in Lebanon costs five times more than in Syria, above the level even when we were suffering violence in our country. The high prices in Lebanon ruined our joy in Ramadan," she added. According to Al Lakissi, also a refugee from Damascus, an aid agency distributed some special aid on the occasion of Ramadan in coordination with the Shebaa municipality board. "The aid consists of canned food and some cereals in addition to tea and vegetable oil, without any meat or chicken. Even if meat or chicken are available, we have to cook it on the very day of distribution as we have no refrigerator. "Ramadan has always been a month of joy and happiness, but it has become a burden on the refugees because of the difficulties we are facing," he said. Preparing Iftar meals for her family of five is a headache for Saada Al Tarawia from Homs. "We lack all kinds of kitchen tools to prepare the meals, and I am obliged to prepare them out of eggs, pasta, sardine cans and cereals," she said. Um Mohammed Khairiya Al Bashouish from Idlib, who lives with her five children in a parking lot, told Xinhua that she has no kitchen and is forced to cook on a gas canister. "Our Iftar is simple and made of what the aid agencies provide us with. It is pasta most of the time as it is the easiest and quickest meal and saves some cooking gas," she said. In an attempt to diversify food choices, some refugee families decided to prepare Iftar meals together in a common kitchen. Fadi Al Kawassiri, a participant of the programme, said a list of foodstuff is handed out every morning and every family brings their share of ingredients. He said: "We have about 75 people and this common Iftar makes the cost lower and provides an occasion for all of us to meet and rekindle the spirit of brotherhood and cooperation." Abou Daooud Jad Al Gharbali, who hails from Aleppo, said: "Ramadan will not change what we have been eating since our displacement since we have no money to spend and depend on aid given to us. What is important is that we eat so we can remain alive until the crisis in our country is solved." Sawsan Al Safidi, a displaced widow from the devastated city of Al Qussair, hoped Ramadan will be a beginning of a peaceful path that sees the end of the war in Syria. "I hope it will be the last Ramadan we have to spend away from our homes," she said. --BERNAMA EE