With an income of just $2 dollars a day, Gazans struggle to celebrate Ramadan

With an income of just $2 dollars a day, Gazans struggle to celebrate Ramadan
Feature: Husband and wife Ramzy and Taghreed are finding it difficult to mark the holy month of Ramadan in Gaza as economic woes continue.
4 min read
17 May, 2019
Many markets have been quiet this Ramadan as people struggle to afford goods [Getty]
At a small three bedroom home in the Nuseirat refugee camp of central Gaza, husband and wife Ramzy and Taghreed Alefish, father and mother to seven children, are finding it hard to get into the spirit of Ramadan.

The parents have experienced poverty for many years and the only financial assistance they get is 1,800 Israeli shekels (about $700) from the Social Affairs Ministry and some other food rations from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, both every three months.

"Sometimes, I feel extremely depressed. When you cannot afford to buy any food, cook or do anything for your family, you cannot help but feel depressed," Taghreed told The New Arab while cleaning some plates at her metal-roofed kitchen.

Just near the kitchen sits her husband Ramzy, who has been out of work for eight years now due to decreased working opportunities across the Gaza Strip as the Israeli blockade and an internal political split continues.

"Before I lost my job, I used to work as a builder inside Israel, but now life has become very hard. I am 43-years-old, but I feel like a 73-year-old. My five-year-old twin daughters asked me for one Israeli shekel the other day and I could not even afford to give them that," Ramzy says. 

"Last year during Ramadan, we had a small meal of fried potato for suhur. For iftar, we had food that was donated by some charitable bodies but this was only on three occasions.  For the rest of the month, we relied on canned food, provided by UNRWA and some other vegetables that we could afford to buy cheaply," he added.  

Taghreed says she feels depressed with her family's current situation 

But life for them has not only been tough during Ramadan. The struggle they face is one they have seen everyday for the past several years.

"Before I was forced to sit idle without work, I remember I used to go shopping with my wife and stockpile Ramadan-relevant food including rice, meat, spices and many others. Back then I was not thinking so much about how much I was spending." However, he adds that being unable to give his daughters even one shekel is a feeling that will haunt him for life. 

Ramzy's 21-year-old son Toufic is also jobless. He tells The New Arab that he has always dreamt of working and helping his father out.

"I remember last Ramadan I was walking down the street along with few friends of mine. I felt a great deal of bitterness when I wanted to buy some sweets to take back home for iftar but I could not. I want to work, I want any job that saves me and my family from such a hell," the youngster said.

In the Nuseirat refugee camp where the family live, the market is quiet despite it being the holy month of Ramadan.

In order to cope with the down economy and prompt his customers to come and buy, Ashraf Alra'y, from the Abu Dalal supermarket, one of the largest grocery stores in the middle area of Gaza Strip is trying to attract customers with special offers. 

"As the situation has been very bad economically over the past few years, purchase power for people here has become weaker. This Ramadan season, we decided to make a generous offer, from the importer to the customer, directly, This would mean that we sell goods within a wholesale price so customers can buy many items for just 100 shekels ($25)," Ashraf said.

Just near the Abu Dalal supermarket, Ali Albish, owner of a long-time fruit shop said that his business was down 20 percent in comparison to the same time last year.

As the struggle for the people of Gaza goes on – with 85 percent of the two million residents living with an income of just $2 dollars a day – the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza reiterated its call for an end to Israel's blockade.

While not so optimistic about the current political climate, Ramzy and Taghreed still hope that next year's Ramadan will be in better spirits. 

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. 

Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari