Recession and unemployment are making Ramadan in Jordan a difficult one this year, but the UAE's 100 Million Meals campaign is helping to ease the hardships confronting many Jordanians trying to put iftar on the table.
On the southern outskirts of Amman last week, employees of the Jordan Food Bank were packing cheese, halawa, cooking oil, sugar, tuna and other canned food in large cardboard boxes adorned with the UAE flag.
“Many people only have bread and tea for their iftar,” said Kawther Al Qatarneh, president of Jordan Food Bank, president of the Jordan Food Bank, which is overseeing co-ordination with its UAE partners.
“These parcels will help.”
Jordan is one of dozens of countries served by the initiative started by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to provide 100 million meals in the Middle East, Africa and Asia throughout Ramadan.
Ramadan started a few days after Jordan’s centennial on April 11. The nation of 10 million people celebrated and the streets of Amman and other major cities were adorned with flags.
At about the same time, a dispute in the Jordanian royal family prompted international calls for continued stability.
The recession that started last year shows little signs of easing, despite the recent relaxation of coronavirus rules.
This week, the authorities eased an all-day curfew starting on Friday, restricting it to just the hours between 7pm and 6am, and allowed worshippers to go to the mosque for most prayers, after having banned evening and Friday prayers.
Ms Al Qatarneh said one parcel funded by the UAE scheme would be enough for a five-person family for the whole of Ramadan.
The parcels will mostly go to needy Syrian refugees and Jordanians.
Ms Al Qatarneh said it gave her “a great and thankful feeling” to have seen people's smiles as they received parcels.
Reminding people that there is much hardship in the region, she said: “You are safe in your house and you have food, but many people are not."
One distributor, Sael Khleifat, came to the food bank in a van to receive 50 parcels for a charity he oversees in Wadi Musa, near the ancient ruins of Petra.
Unemployment is officially at 24 per cent, a record in Jordan.
The authorities increased this year’s emergency assistance budget to help poor families by 38 per cent to $280 million.
Construction worker Hamady Khalaf said he has been more or less jobless since the pandemic started last year.
“There has been less work,” he said as he stood in front of the food bank waiting for his UAE-labelled package.
He said he had no choice but to seek assistance from the charity.
On April 17, the authorities said low-income families, refugees, orphans and widows in Jordan, Egypt and Pakistan had started receiving food to help them prepare meals throughout the holy month.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, which organised the 100 Million Meals campaign, has joined international and local partners in each beneficiary country.
The Initiatives and the UN World Food Programme will also distribute cash vouchers to the needy in Palestine and refugee camps in Jordan and Bangladesh.
The vouchers can be used at local food banks.
The UAE officially reached its Dh100 million target for the 100 Million Meals campaign in just 10 days.
A website allowed the public to donate as little as Dh10 to fund 10 meals, rising to Dh500 or more.
The total was reached thanks to the generosity of 185,000 donors inside and outside the Emirates.