In Egypt, the Good Samaritans of Ramadan forced to tighten their belts

In Egypt, Ramadan is synonymous with donations to the poorest

In Egypt, the Good Samaritans of Ramadan forced to tighten their belts

In Egypt, Ramadan is synonymous with donations to the poorest. This year with the economic crisis, prices have soared, donors have become rarer and soup kitchens have had to seriously cut back.

"Last year, we served 360 fast-breaking meals a day during the month of Ramadan. This year, we won't even be able to provide 200," the founder of a small charity organization told AFP. the popular district of al-Marg in Cairo.

And yet, notes this good Samaritan who does not wish to give her name for reasons of confidentiality, these free meals have become vital. Because food prices have more than doubled while inflation is close to 33% and devaluation 50%.

For many families, she says, picking up a basket or sitting down in one of these associations has become "the only option for eating meat or chicken", two foodstuffs now out of reach for the majority of Egyptians in a country where two-thirds of the 105 million people live below or just above the poverty line.

Ramadan is synonymous with charity in Egypt: "it is a tradition that is very important to us, most Egyptians give their annual alms at this time", testifies Manal Saleh, today at the head of the Clothing Bank Egyptian after founding in 2004 the Food Bank, one of the largest aid associations in the country.

The proof ? Of the $315 million in donations made to associations over ten months in 2021 according to official figures, "90% were received during Ramadan," she says.

But this year, the war in Ukraine, a sharp devaluation and the global outbreak of inflation have been there.

For Fouad, a 64-year-old from Cairo who prefers to use a pseudonym, this has meant a skyrocketing number of families needing help during Ramadan.

Last year, the small soup kitchen that this retired engineer runs with several friends distributed 250 meals a day. This year, he says, we will have to cook more "so as not to help only the poorest".

He now sees passing day laborers or small employees who, all year round, skip lunch and thus save "60 or 70 pounds", or about two euros, "because they know that this sum can make a difference for their family" .

Because in Egypt, one of the five countries in the world which risks no longer being able to repay its debt, there are no longer any small economies.

According to the latest official figures, in 2021 the average salary was 120 euros. However, today, the cheapest local meat kilogram in Cairo is 6.5 euros, or a quarter of a weekly salary.

This year, Fouad and his friends managed to double their budget. But at the cost of great effort and especially knowing that this would not double the number of beneficiaries, just to exceed it a little.

"Two weeks before Ramadan, we looked at the figures and we said to ourselves that we should perhaps cancel everything this year," he told AFP.

"But fortunately those who could have doubled their donations because they know how important it is for us to be present at times like this".

Because, even before Ramadan, the NGOs were already telling of receiving the middle class crushed by soaring prices, demanding checks to pay the rent, the school of the children or the maintenance of their car.

These, until last year generous donors, can no longer help the poorest.

But, wants to believe Ms. Saleh, "we went through crises before this one and the Egyptians stuck together".

"Even if people can no longer give as much, we will see more volunteers, volunteers ready to cook for others, even if they have no money to give".

03/28/2023 08:11:07 - Cairo (AFP) - © 2023 AFP