The month of Ramadan is an important global celebration for over 1.5billion people and, as such, has become an integral part of the work and culture of many national Red Crescent societies.
To mark the month of Ramadan, we wanted to highlight some of the ways in which the work of staff and volunteers in these National Societies changes at this time, and also note some of the activities undertaken in different countries.
Mr. Saleh Al Muhannadi, Secretary General of Qatar Red Crescent Society, said that while it is a month of reflection, it was also a time of kindness, selflessness, compassion and mercy, the very essence of the Movement’s humanitarian mission. “Although it is a month of self-reflection, Ramadan also is a time to bring families and communities closer together,” he said. “For example, it is the tradition to break the daily fast after the evening’s Maghreb prayer in the company of loved ones or neighbours. This meal is called iftar, which literally means breakfast. In preparation for the next day’s fast, it is our custom to stay up with friends and family to have a late evening meal called suhoor.”
In terms of work activities, the Secretary General said the Red Crescent would be reaching out to three distinct groups during the month. Struggling Qatari families, single migrant workers who may be away from home and the general public. A special Ramadan Souq (or market) allowed families to sell their crafts and cash grants were availalbe to enable them to participate. For those far from home, a special tent was erected next to the Red Crescent office in Doha with the capacity to serve Iftar to 2,500 people each evening.
Events were held around the Souq each day for the public, including first aid training, diabetes awareness sessions and a special ceremony to honor the dedicated volunteers from the Red Crescent.
Mr. Saleh Al Muhannadi said the organization wanted to reach out to all parts of the community. “We see Ramadan as a way to bring people closer together, share traditions, and inspire a sense of community among this very diverse group,” he said.
In addition to work at home, the Qatar Red Crescent operated a Ramadan food distribution plan in 19 different countries including Comoros, Sudan, Yemen, China, Bosnia and Macedonia.
The Palestine Red Crescent had a range of volunteer programmes over the month to assist and support those going to worship in the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The organization was on hand to deal with the effects of overcrowding around the holy sites and will also provide first aid and ambulance services to take casualties to Jerusalem hospitals.
In Al-Khalil area, along with the spread of more than 80 volunteers to facilitate citizens' access to Al Haram al-Ibrahimi, volunteers of Palestine Red Crescent revive every year the tradition of "Musaharati" - someone who roams the streets with a drum to wake up people for prayers and Sohour meal - inherited through the generations.
Ismail Mehanna, one of the volunteers involved in the Ramadan events said: "Our goal is to provide comfort to the people who observe the month of Ramadan, words of thanks and prayers are enough for us to continue doing more and to return life to this old town".
In Saudia Arabia there is a definite regional focus as the national Red Crescent society provided assistance and first aid support to 2 million visitors to the holy mosques in Makah and Madinah and also launched a campaign to support the people of Syria.
Launched on 1st August, the campaign has already raised over US$133.3 million, and the Red Crescent - as part of the national campaign committee - is providing humanitarian assistance, including food distribution, medicine, clothes, tents and blankets to thousands of people who have crossed the border from Syria to Jordan.
For the Libyan Red Crescent Society, Ramadan is the busiest time of year, with almost twice as many operations taking place as in a normal month. Volunteer and youth coordinator for the Red Crescent branch at Nalut, Mohammed Qana, said that in addition to providing iftar to 4,000 people over the month, the society was also involved in organizing and promoting a range of activities designed to bring the community together including a football tournament and other cultural events.
In the past, the Bengazi branch has tried to provide clothes - some new, some pre-owned - to needy families in the city. Recently, however, they decided to turn the whole project into a ‘free market’ where those who needed them could choose the clothes to suit their style and size at the Libyan Red Crescent Market. Project supervisor, Mr Ziad Drissi, said: “But two years ago we decided to offer them the opportunity to choose their clothes according to designs and sizes suitable for them, and the success of the idea led to its application this year, where we found people more comfortable with the idea.” The organization has even decided to provide transport to many families to ensure they are able to come to the market.
In Tunisia, the planning started well before Ramadan, as the Red Crescent began a fundraising campaign to support its efforts during the month. Volunteers also used this time to identify families most in need of support. During Ramadan the organization will provide Iftar to hundreds of people each evening both at its headquarters and, for those unable to make it out, in their own home. The organization said that some people on low incomes may struggle to get enough food as Ramadan tends to see local food prices rise, and meat can be scarce.
It also provided water services, especially for the old and very young who may have problems with the summer heat.