Making the best of Ramadan in quake-hit northwestern Syria
More than half of the region’s residents have been displaced by war, then February’s earthquakes struck, creating what locals call the hardest Ramadan of their lives
Idlib, Syria – It is the middle of Ramadan across the Muslim world, including in the rebel-held Idlib region of northwestern Syria, although the celebrations are muted there with markets quiet and food prices skyrocketing.
The economic situation is deteriorating day by day, especially after devastating earthquakes struck on February 6.
According to a statement issued by the Response Coordination Group, the price of meat in northwestern Syria has gone up by 57 percent during the month of Ramadan and vegetables and fruit have risen by 55 percent.
“The markets are definitely quieter this Ramadan,” said Abu Hussein, a supermarket owner in the city of Idlib. “The price of food is higher because merchants are monopolising and hoarding, controlling the price without thinking about how hard the living conditions are for the people in the region.”
The population in northwestern Syria is about 4.5 million people, 2.9 million of whom are internally displaced, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“This Ramadan is the hardest for us so far because of the financial crisis we’re experiencing and our dependence on the meals provided by relief organisations,” said Mariam Haloul, a mother of four whose house was destroyed in the earthquakes and who now lives near Salqin in a camp for survivors of the disaster.
Humanitarian organisations working in the area are trying to help people affected by the quakes by providing food for iftar, the meal at sundown when Muslim break their daylong fast during Ramadan, or by holding community iftar banquets, like one held in Atareb, west of Aleppo.
“The iftar banquet that was held in the city, which included more than 1,000 people, aimed to bring the people of the city together in a spiritual atmosphere, especially after the earthquakes, which claimed the lives of dozens of the city’s residents, especially in the neighbourhood where the iftar was held, where three buildings were destroyed and 45 people were killed,” Mahmoud Abu al-Majd, an activist from Atareb, said.
Millions of Syrians displaced by war have fled to northwestern Syria, but many more people there are living in tents this Ramadan after magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes struck the region on February 6.