Down Beirut Streets, Syrian Families Struggle to Secure a Ramadan Meal

Beirut – The urban thrive to city life is dulled as dozens of Syrian families left homeless by war struggle to scavenge for means to break their fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Aligned across Beirut streets, straw mattresses and modest blankets– all that is left for underprivileged Syrians refugees — leave an image which speaks louder than a thousand words.

Running on empty bellies, children have been left scattered throughout the suburban UNESCO Street, living on the hope of a walker handing them a day’s meal.

Not so far away, the scene resurfaces near a city stadium—as the rate of poverty strikes an all-time-low of Syrian refugees being starved half to death.

It is safe to say that refugees have been brought a step closer to utter destitution as Ramadan came along. The numbers of Syrian refugees being left on the streets multiplied.

Strikingly, figures released by the UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF show that over 70 percent of Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon live below poverty line, making due with a shocking $3.8 per day.

For the first time since the wave of asylum seekers flooded Beirut, homelessness has been so openly widespread.

Increasingly, poverty exacerbated with data showing a majority of refugees being forced to cut back on daily number of meals to reduce spending.

In Cola, a highly-populated area nestled in western Beirut, 50-year-old Ahmed al-Sheikani has been left stranded since the first days of Ramadan after failing to secure rent.

Weakened by diabetes, Ahmed has no choice but to wander.

“Homelessness relieves the stresses of daily expenses,” Ahmed said with wary smile.

When the streets become your home, there are no longer monthly installments, Ahmed explained.

Commenting on his eligibility for UN-sponsored food aid programs, “I have not been registered with UNHCR for two years. I have 4 children above the legal age of 18, which classifies me as ‘covered’ and inadequate for help, so I do not benefit from any aid plans.”

As cold and as brutal as it comes homelessness is. But it is a leeway Ahmed needs while hunting for a job.

“Here in Ramadan, we only eat what people give us, and we sleep on the curb.”

Ahmed’s case is not unique, said UNHCR spokesperson Lisa Abu Khaled. But she describes it as “temporary.”

“A number of Syrian refugees are forced to live under miserable conditions and in shaky and broken homes, or on the street until they regain or arrange their financial status, but UNHCR helps them until an alternative is found.”

Khaled stresses that UNHCR is aware of growing homelessness and is working to address it and helping the family through a committee comprising a refugee protection team.

Seyyed Ali Mir Mousavi

Seyyed Ali Mir Mousavi

Dr. Seyyed Ali Mir Mousavi is lecturer in political science at Mofid University in Qom, Iran, and the author of books on the relationship between Muslim clerics, modernity, and the state

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