A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
As Ramadan begins, Oxfam's Jonaid Jilani remembers colleagues in the field, and those less fortunate than ourselves, with a special thought for the millions of Syrian refugees displaced by conflict.
The time of year is upon us again where many, like my family, will be observing the holy month of Ramadan and abstaining from food and water from sunrise to sunset.
Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection - particularly the moments just before breaking the fast at sunset - when Muslims unite and remember all that their Lord has provided for them, and think about others who are less fortunate.
Ramadan is also characterised by extraordinary generosity. It is obligatory for Muslims to give 2.5% of their annual income to charity, regardless of the economic climate. It doesn't matter when they donate, but unsurprisingly, most money is donated during Ramadan. There are various reasons for this, but most prominent is the belief that there are more blessings during this month. People take more time to reflect upon the difficulties of others, and the result is a greater outpouring of empathy towards them.
Some won't have the luxury of breaking their fast at all, as there simply isn't any food around.
Working for Oxfam, I will be thinking of my colleagues on the ground in other countries who will be juggling the demands of fasting while continuing to provide support to people in need. I will also be thinking of people observing Ramadan in very difficult conditions - some with just a small piece of bread to break their fast due to high (and rising) food prices, others who won't have the luxury of being able to break their fast at all, as there simply isn't any food around.
Spare a thought for Syria
And if you're observing Ramadan this month (or even if you're not), spare a thought for people affected by the Syria Crisis - the refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries and those left behind. There are 4.25 million people displaced in Syria who desperately need shelter, food and water. More than 1.7 million refugees have fled into neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, with an estimated 8,000 people leaving Syria every day. None of them know if or when they will be able to return home.
For these people, Ramadan will certainly be a very challenging time. We'll be featuring the daily lives of some of them later in the month on this website with stories and photos of Syrian refugee families breaking fast in Jordan (like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to make sure you don't miss them).
How you can help
Oxfam is working in Jordan and Lebanon to help provide clean water and sanitation facilities to Syrian refugees as well as helping vulnerable families with cash to buy the basics and put a roof over their heads. Oxfam is aiming to reach 650,000 people in the coming months. We're also calling for urgent peace talks that world leaders have promised to take place at the earliest opportunity.
Originally published by Oxfam GB.