Ramadan Déjà Vu: Pakistan in 2010, Somalia in 2011

The month of Ramadan began on August 1st. During this time Muslims refrain from drinking, eating, sexual activity from dawn to sunset. In addition to fasting, this is a time for observers to read the Quran and commit good deeds while avoiding anger, lying, and ill feelings towards others. This is not something that is easily accomplished considering the fact that Ramadan will occur during the summer’s longer days, for most of the world, for almost more 10 years. Nonetheless there are millions of people who complete their month of fasting while enduring severe hardship.

Last year Pakistan, which is over 95% Muslim, was hit by  the worst floods the country had seen in decades. The country not only saw widespread devastation, but they became dependent upon relief efforts due to the loss of crops and livestock. Irregardless of the hardship, many of the 14 million Pakistani people affected by the flooding committed to fasting during Ramadan. This was a time when those who lost everything banded together to help each other. Almost  a year later Pakistan is still picking up the pieces. Current figures estimate that more than 4 million people were displaced and at least 800,000 families are still living in shelters as they enter Ramadan.

As Pakistan is still dealing with last year’s flooding Somalia is trying to cope with worst drought and famine that they have seen in 60 years. Somalia is similar to Pakistan in that it is over 95% Muslim. Ramadan began with millions of observers fasting in these extreme conditions. Almost 30,000 children under the age of 5 have died in the past three months as a direct result to the drought and famine, according to USAID. Within six weeks the entire southern portion of Somalia will be considered a famine zone. This means over 3 million people in Somalia alone need immediate aid. Across the Horn of Africa there are over 10 million people that are being affected by this drought.

Many Somalians are finding ways to see the silver lining on the darkest of clouds during this troubling time. Some families, like that of Mohamed Idris, have little more than water and a few dates between them. Some wealthier families have offered items such as dates and rice to their fellow countrymen. Yesterday’s food distribution provided by the United Nations’ World Food Program turned into a gunfight that left at least seven people dead at the Badbaado camp, which is on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

While many Muslims around the world consider a 16 hour day fast during the summer cumbersome, most will not understand the feeling of breaking their fast with nothing to serve their family. There are many ways to help, including giving zakat. There are organizations like Islamic Relief that will allow you to donate to specific efforts including; orphan support, emergencies, and specific relief efforts by country. This is a time for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to take time help those in need. mA

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