Oxfam has been speaking to communities in the Muslim world as families gather together for Iftar (Breaking of the Fast) at sunset. This is the time of day when people reflect on their fast and come together as a family. Many have been speaking about how food has become much more expensive and how this has been an incredibly tough Ramadan for them.
Rising food prices are already affecting how Muslims are breaking their fasts, and with depleting land and energy resources and the gathering pace of climate change, this is likely to get worse in the future.
“For many people around the world Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and remembering those that are less fortunate and hungry. We must ensure that people always have enough to eat, especially at the end of a fast when people need to replenish themselves.” said Penny Lawrence International Director for Oxfam.
One of the starkest examples is in East Africa, where more than 12 million people are facing desperate food shortages following, in some regions the worst drought in 60 years.
For the majority of people in Kenya’s Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world, where tens of thousands of people have recently arrived fleeing the famine and conflict in Somalia, this is a trying period.
Aisha, a woman in Dadaab, told how she prepares a simple meal of maize flour paste (Ugali) and beans for her family at the end of the day. “Every fifteen days I get a few kilos of maize flour, beans and cooking oil which I use carefully until the next distribution dates,” she says. “I know it is important to eat well during this time (Ramadan), but this is all I have.”
In Pakistan, prices of staple food items increased by 17 percent ahead of Ramadan, making food much more expensive for people compared to last year. The price of vegetables rose by 14 percent, wheat by 3 percent, rice by 3 percent, chicken by 19 percent and milk by 1 percent in July compared to last year. As opposed to other countries, Pakistan has enough stocks of staple food but the wavering economy and rising inflation have pushed tens of millions below the poverty line. With increased poverty and hike in the food prices, more and more Pakistanis are eating less and less.
In Bangladesh food inflation was recorded as 13.4 percent in July, 2011. Since the beginning of Ramadan prices of all staples except rice have increased significantly. Because of the price hike, millions of people across the country don’t have adequate food. Jamila, a vegetable vendor of Dhaka Cantonment area, says "prices of vegetables, lentils, and other necessary commodities such as date, chickpeas have risen so high in this Ramadan that I am finding it extremely difficult to manage my family expenditure".
In Yemen, families have been saying that sugar, rice and wheat are more expensive this Ramadan and for many there this has been one of the toughest Ramadans. One desperate woman Oxfam spoke to said she had been worrying about what she would be breaking her fast with that evening as she couldn’t afford food. “Everything has become expensive since last Ramadan, sugar, rice and wheat.” she said.
With one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, nearly 80 percent of people in Gaza depend on some form of humanitarian assistance to survive. Despite high levels of food aid, the World Food Programme recently found that 66 percent of families in Gaza still do not have enough food to eat. Around 40 percent of all items that Israel allows into Gaza are food items destined for grocery shelves, but this is of little help to families who cannot afford even basic food goods. The average family in Gaza spends over 60 percent of their money on food. Many families used to fish, raise sheep and chickens, or grow some of their own food, but with access to the sea and open land heavily restricted it has become increasingly difficult to undertake these initiatives under the Israeli blockade.
In Azerbaijan, Oxfam spoke to families who said that the price of mutton has increased by one-fifth since last Ramadan, which means families have to reduce the amount of mutton from their daily meals.
The UK has also seen rising food prices, with families in London saying that the prices of basic necessities such as rice and oil have increased.
With 925 million people going hungry every day and food prices predicted to more than double within the next twenty years, the food crisis is deepening.
MADE in Europe and Oxfam are both demanding a step change from governments to act and help steer us away from an age of crisis to a more sustainable and fair future by better regulating markets, tackling climate change and investing in sustainable agriculture to ensure people have enough to eat.
"Ramadan is a time when we reflect on the blessings that each of us have and experience in some small way the hunger that people around the world endure on a daily basis. In the UK we have been fasting for 18-hour days but know that at the end of it, there is going to be enough food and water for us to quench our hunger and thirst”, said Saif Ahmad CEO of MADE in Europe.
“People in other countries have been breaking their fasts with very little simply because there is no food available to eat. As Ramadan draws to a close, I am urging people to reflect about where our food comes from, and how we can together alleviate the food crisis to ensure that everyone has enough to eat. ", he added.