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Ahmad Yousef is the father of eight children, originally from a village near Homs, Syria. He was displaced and relocated to the village of Humaira, where he received this food package. (Photo courtesy of Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue)

Ahmad Yousef is the father of eight children, originally from a village near Homs, Syria. He was displaced and relocated to the village of Humaira, where he received this food package. (Photo courtesy of Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue)

MCC projects bring assistance during Ramadan and beyond

Emily Loewen
July 17, 2013


WINNIPEG, Man. — Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is providing six months of emergency food to more than 7,600 Christian and Muslim families displaced by the conflict in Syria, starting as Muslims in the country are marking the holy month of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, which is in July this year, Muslims focus on inner reflection, devotion to God and self-control. Muslims fast during daylight hours, but eating is permitted before sunrise or after sundown.

Providing food relief during Ramadan brings comfort and helps put people at ease, said Riad Jarjour, president of the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (FDCD), an MCC partner in Lebanon. “It will enable them to fast without worrying too much if they have food or not,” he said. “They can focus instead on practicing their religious beliefs in the holy month.”

In the Qalomoun area of Syria, MCC extended an existing emergency food program for another six months. Five thousand families will receive monthly packages of food, purchased locally with MCC funds. The package contains staples, such as rice, oil, sugar, canned meat and tea.

More than 13,000 families are seeking food assistance in Qalamoun, and the numbers continue to rise as people are displaced by violence in other regions. Meanwhile, access to food in Syria is becoming more difficult because of rising prices and food shortages.

“Such distribution helps the internally displaced people not only to survive, but to live in dignity, not begging, not dying of hunger, nor fighting with each other over a loaf of bread,” said Jarjour.

In southern Lebanon, a new program will provide food vouchers for 2,625 Syrian and Palestinian families displaced from Syria. The vouchers can be used to redeem food from local stores.

Using vouchers instead of direct assistance reduces administrative costs, increases the diversity of foods people can eat and benefits the local economy. Vouchers also help return a sense of control and dignity to people living with uncertainty.

“The simple gesture of entering a store and choosing foods that one knows will keep their families healthy and happy offers refugees an important sense of self-worth,” said Sarah Adams, MCC representative for Lebanon and Syria. Adams is from Westerville, Ohio.

Alongside food vouchers, the project will provide supplementary food for 450 babies between 6 months and 1 year old. Families will receive porridge made of wheat cereal, mixed with vegetables and fruit, to help prevent malnutrition in young children.

MCC also is helping improve food sanitation by providing a one-time distribution of cooking utensils. Many families left home so quickly they were unable to bring supplies with them.

Both projects are funded through MCC’s account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

To date, MCC has allocated $8.2 million for humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding and disaster response to assist people affected by the crisis in Syria. To contribute go to donate.mcc.org.

                                                                               Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ