Ramadan is Kareem (generous) for some, but Stingy for Somalia
Inevitably during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, the Somali plight- the distress of a fellow Arab nation, majority Muslim population, has not been far from the conscience of the devout followers of the fast. These worshippers use the month to reflect and count their blessings for the food and health they have, and use the temporary hunger to feel with the less fortunate. So the irony of Somalia has not been lost on them.
How much does the Middle East region get through in fasts broken on generous servings and abundent choices and feasts, even before the official 'Eid' Feast to celebrate the end of the fasting month? And how much food is really wasted at this time of theoretical returning to basics or religious aesceticism and less, not more; all the while the Somalis are forsaken and denied the opportunity to break a relentless fast that they did not opt to keep this Ramadan.
This is the worst drought the Somalis have suffered in 60 years, significantly at a time when the world is accused of wasting more food and resources than ever before. (Studies in the region show a 30 per cent food wastage average per household, mostly by busy younger working people aged 16 to 34 and families with school-age children). Some however, are raising awareness and ramping up action to prevent wastage, and feed the hungry, at least the local hungry. Thanks to at least some responsible and concerned Ramadan followers, as well as environment or charity activists, trying to stem the tide of food wastage and create campaigns to highlight the cause at Ramadan, wastage concern has been on the agenda. Ramadan notably is a month that attracts more charity work in the Muslim nation, so it is quite common to find people already or customarily arranging food programs for the needy as part of their family habit or community culture.
But this effort needs to be implemented across the board and spectrum from family level through community to retailer and consumer, since 'the enormous food waste generation can be witnessed at all levels from the wholesaler to retailer and to consumers.'
Somalia on our Minds
Back to Somalia: Tens of thousands have died in the last three months. Muslim member states have been recently meeting to take action. Some people go most of their lives without knowing hunger. That cannot be said for Muslims who practice the fast of Ramadan. Member states gathered in Istanbul last month to coordinate an emergency response to the devastating drought in Somalia.
One person in the world dies every three seconds because of hunger.
Campaigns in the Gulf regions such as Wipe Out Waste (WoW) look at how people can manage the buying and consumption of food in a more effective manner during Ramadan to ensure a clean plate and a clean conscience. This month (and for the last two months retrospectively) we are compelled to think about the suffering from hunger in Somalia especially while it undergoes its most devestating draught.
Muslims are mobilsing to help more than ever during this sacred month whereby charity is prized above all else, in the spirit of giving thanks for blessings.
Every year more than 1.6 billion people around the world partake in the inspirational holy month of Ramadan, fasting from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food, drink and sexual contact. Only those deemed sick, elderly or travelling, or women who are pregnant, menstruating or nursing are exempted and can break the fast and either make up an equivilent number of daysfasting later in the year, or if physically unable, they must feed a hungry person for every day missed. Muslims are aware that the month emphasizes not wasting food which is 'haram' (a wicked, shameful act) , and looking after, as well as feeling for the poor and hungry, is the virtue extolled by Islam now and indeed all year round. As stated in the holy Qur’an: “Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters”.
Practical advice to save food:
Practical measures to curb food wastage:Shop after Iftar, not before on empty! Don’t be tempted by Ramadan food offers such as buy one get one free.
Make sure your fridges are set at the right temperature - to stall food from rotting faster.
Eat leftover food; some dishes taste better the day after!
Buy food in smaller quantities and eat food before it expires.
Many ordinary Muslims exhibit habits that corroborate the spirit of Islam with its emphasis on charity, resourcefulness, modesty and anti-wastage.
Some interviewed have shared their practices of resourcefulness and efforts to conserve and not waste, particularly during Ramadan: When there are leftovers from iftar (break of fast), one woman says she refrigerates it for suhoor (meal before dawn). On normal days, she makes sure no food is wasted.
Another woman questioned, says her children are not very fond of heavy meals, so she cooks minimal food that can be consumed at one time. Whenever there is excess food, it is refrigerated and her husband makes sure that it is distributed to people.
Commonly in the Arab world, peoople cite giving their left over food to their door keepers or 'concierge' of the building.
Another mentioned that she is against lavish dinners, which is why she avoids buying and cooking in bulk. While most of the food is cooked within the family's consumption, any leftover is sent to neighbours or the building's watchman.
Beyond this simple family level action, the wider community, often spear-headed by NGOs or individuals inspired to effect change this Ramadan have initiated campaigns to stop wastage in the first place, as well as to distribute it wisely should it occur. Also programs to provide charitable, free mass-meals for the needy this Ramadan are part and parcel of the spirit of Ramadan in countries where tents for Ramadan free food are set up.
It is incumbent upon humanity to look out for each other:The Muslim imperative insists that Muslims reduce personal food waste in Ramadan. The majority of Muslims give charity and food to less fortunate people, laborers or workers, friends and families.
Our Ramadan Thoughts are with the hungry, but what about Action?
How can the world spend so much money on military missions and food gluttony but struggle so much to help the Somalis, including children, who are dying of a natural cause? Even the oil-rich Arab nations have not stepped forward in any coordinated decisive fashion to date. This delayed or slow-coming aid and relief effort is deplorable, and quite tragic, given that so many in the world are throwing away food and resources.
The amount of food needed in Somalia is enormous, making the recently announced aid from Tanzania, 300 tonnes of maize, quite insignificant, but still far better than 50 tonnes of food from Turkey. This week for example, nine airlifts full of 800 tonnes of high-energy biscuits were delivered to Kenya, but these were just enough to feed 1.6 million refugees for a day.
Arabs and Muslims around the world are not forgetting Somalia- as the juxtaposition is not 'wasted' on them that during the season of giving thanks for food and good health, and feeling the pain of others, Somalia is experiencing distress and devestation cause by a draught. They are malnutritioned to the point of starvation: their hunger goes beyond the daylight hours of the Ramadan fast, ironically something they would otherwise be partaking in as a Muslim nation. And did in fact celebrate last year.
Some sin-salvaging advice to saving food:
Education, awareness and attitude toward consumption can help us to make a smaller impact on the environment; it is the blessing or “barakah” of Ramadan to be thankful and appreciative of the real wealth in our lives.
People generally buy 30 per cent to 40 per cent more household products than they need at this time. Hotels and restaurants over-produce and supply more than the requirement.
In Bahrain, ordinarily, food waste reached more than 300 tonnes per day, but this figure rocketed during Ramadan.
Approximately 500 tonnes of food gets thrown away during the month of Ramadan in Abu Dhabi. The alarming issue, which also has serious environmental implications, has prompted the government to launch a drive to curb food wastage.
According to official statistics, one third of the waste generated in the UAE is comprised of discarded food.
The 'Think Before You Waste' campaign, which began on Wednesday (Aug 10), hopes to raise awareness about food waste and its environmental implications.
Donate leftover food to charity: If you're in the UAE you can contact Hefth Al Ne'ma Center, part of the UAE Red Crescent Authority.
While Ramadan is Kareem (generous), the religion insists on no waste: Islamic preachers have called on Muslims to consider reducing personal food waste this Ramadan as part of their religious responsibility, as outlined in the Holy Qur'an.
Mosques are delivering the message too about food waste in Ramadan.