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Feature: Syrian refugees in Lebanon hope to celebrate next Ramadan at home


19:13, July 11, 2013

BEKAA, Syria, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Syrian refugees in Lebanon entered Ramadan with sighs and pain rather than joy that usually accompanies the celebration of the holy month of Islam, expressing hopes that it would be their last Ramadan observed away from home.

Forced displacement, loss of family members and friends, poor living conditions have all weighed down on Syrian refugees' festivity in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a border area where lots of refugees have fled to from neighboring Syria.

According to the latest figures from the UN Higher Council for Refugees, Some 587,000 Syrians are receiving aid from the UN, the Lebanese government as well as some NGOs across the country.

Salwa Al Amashi, a Syrian woman 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 available aid in the past week was far from enough to make her seven children proper Iftar meals for the coming 30 days, referring to the important meals that end the daytime fasting during Ramadan.

Afifa El nouri, another refugee from the devastated province of Aleppo, complained about the price hikes in the markets due to the celebration of the festival.

"I went with my husband to a market place to buy some vegetables and meat as well as some sweets... But our surprise was that the merchants took advantage of Ramadan and raised the prices by about 20 percent," she said. "All what we bought was eggs, potatoes and a small quantity of vegetables."

She added "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."

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.

However, "the aid consisted of canned food and some cereals in addition to tea and vegetable oil, without any meat or chicken," he said, sighing "even if meat or chicken were available, we have to cook it on the very day of distribution because we have no refrigerators."

"Ramadan had 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."

Um Mohammed Khairiya Al Bashouish from Idlib lives with her give children in a parking lot, explained to Xinhua that she has no kitchen and has to cook food 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."

In attempt to diversify the food, some refugee families decided to prepare Iftar meals together in a common kitchen.

Fadi Al Kawassiri, a participant of the program, told Xinhua that we hand out every morning a list of the needed foodstuff and every family brings their share of the ingredients.

He added "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." For his part, Abou Daooud Jad Al Gharbali from Aleppo, said that "Ramadan will not change what we have been eating since our displacement since we have no money to spend and depend on the 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 that the festival will be a beginning of a peaceful path that will end the war in Syria, and that "it would be the last Ramadan we have to spend away from our homes."

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