Though the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is known for bringing families around the table, Jamal Hilal, a Syrian refugee in Jordan, spends his days worrying about scraping enough food together so that his family can break their fast.
Jamal and his family arrived at the Azraq camp in Jordan a year ago, but could not stand the unforgiving desert and escaped. They now live in a poor neighbourhood in east Amman, the capital.
“I ran away from Azraq camp because there’s no electricity and we had to walk for ages to get water,” he said. “I couldn’t walk to the shop without breaking down halfway.”
Without UN assistance, Jamal’s family must make do without education for his daughters and medicine for his diabetes. His wife Nawal, who has speech and hearing impairments, has been forced to find work outside.
“I work so we can afford drinking water and buy our girls their needs,” she said. “I wish we stayed in Syria and died there because this life is too difficult.”
The family gets sporadic respite during Ramadan, when generous neighbours sometimes drop off meat and food for Iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims when breaking the day’s fast. The family says it is times like these when there seems to be a little more good in the world.
Days without the help, however, are gruelling stretches of long work and almost empty kitchens.
“All we ask the world is to look after Syrian refugees,” said Jamal. “Help them a little. There are so many people like me and there are those who are worse off. We just need money to eat and drink, that’s all.”