Ramadan began Monday, but for some in the world, observing the Muslim holy month will be a particular challenge this year.
In recent months, the Horn of Africa—which includes Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti—has been slammed by a brutal drought that has left about 12.4 million people needing aid due to widespread famine, according to the United Nations.
So, in a nation like Somalia where most people practice Islam, observing Ramadan’s fast (which includes abstaining from food and water from dawn till dusk and breaking the fast at sundown with a meal to regain strength for the next day’s fast) is going to be very difficult if not impossible.
For one, during the past several weeks and months, many have already been forced to fast due to the lack of food and are weak. And now, keeping them from being in accordance with Ramadan, there is no food with which to break their fasts.
Still, some in the nation suffering the ravages of famine are choosing to fast anyway.
“[It’s] hard for me to fast, but I did fast for fear of God,” Faduma Aden, a Somali mother residing in a Kenyan refugee camp told the Associated Press.
But others are forgoing the observance due to their dire circumstances.
“I cannot fast because I cannot get food to break it and eat before the morning,” Mohamed Mohamud Abdulle told the news service. The religion does allow for those who are ill to eat during Ramadan.
A Somali mosque leader has called on Muslims to help their brethren during this trying time.
“We have asked all Muslims to donate to help those dying from hunger. Muslims should not be silent on this situation, so we shall help if Allah wills,” Sheik Ali Sheik Hussein told the AP.
The crisis hasn’t gone unnoticed in the United States.
In a statement released Monday, President Obama recognized the start of the holy month while appealing to Americans to remember those sick from the famine.
"The heartbreaking accounts of lost lives and the images of families and children in Somalia and the Horn of Africa struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and compel us to act," the president said.
Earlier this week, the Red Cross did make some headway in dispersing aid by distributing food to 162,000 people in south-central Somalia, a region that hasn’t seen that much aid since beginning of the year, the AP reports.
Still, the situation looks to get worse, with the number of people in the Horn affected by famine set to rise to 15 million in the coming months, according to estimates.
(Photo: Omar Faurk/Landov)