Muslims around the world have begun 30 days of fasting known as the holy month of Ramadan with special dinners to break each night. But for most Somalis suffering empty stomachs due to the worst famine in a generation, they barely have enough for the nighttime celebration. As a result, they decided to skip fasting, saying they simply do not have enough food to prepare a traditional feast to end a day of fasting.
“Today is the worst day I ever faced. All my family are hungry and I have nothing to feed them,” Abdulle said on Monday, the first day of the Muslim holy month. “I feel the hunger that forced me from my home has doubled here.”
Thousands have fled to the world’s largest refugee camp in neighboring Kenya. They say they have been unintentionally fasting for weeks or months, but without the end-of-day meal to regain their strength.
Nur Ahmed, a father of six said, “I cannot fast because I cannot get food to break it and eat before the morning.” He said this at a camp for internally displaced people in Mogadishu called Badbado. Ahmed’s wife died last year during childbirth, he said.
For most of the Muslim world, Ramadan this year falls at a time of rising food prices and political upheaval. Food prices typically spike during the Muslim religious month, and the elaborate dinners many in the Middle East put on to break the daily fast drive a deep hole in household budgets.
The United Nations says more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa need food aid, but that 2.2 million need aid in a region of south-central Somalia controlled by the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which has not let many aid agencies operate in its territory, including the U.N World Food Program.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday it is distributing food to 162,000 people in south-central Somalia affected by drought and armed violence. The food distributions in south-central are the first large-scale distributions in that regions since the beginning of the year, it said.
“This operation demonstrates the ICRC’s ability to deliver emergency aid directly to the people affected in southern Somalia,” said Andrea Heath. “But this distribution assists only a small percentage of those in need. More aid will be required to help the population bridge the gap until the next harvest in December.”