Ramadan 2023 : How will rising prices hurt Muslim globally

As the holy month of Ramadan kicks off this week, millions of Muslims around the world are feeling the pinch of inflation.

Food and energy prices have been soaring around the world as Russia’s war in Ukraine, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change-related events weigh on the global economy.

Countries of the Global South — especially in the Middle East, Asia and Africa — where the vast majority of the world’s Muslims live, are also among the worst hit by price surges and shortages of key supplies.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 349 million people across 79 countries were acutely food insecure in 2022 and more than 140 million required assistance, and that number is not expected to change much in 2023. Asia and Africa are home to the highest number of undernourished people.

Spikes in food prices, in turn, force families to reduce expenses on other goods and services, said Friederike Greb, an economist at the WFP. “If you are poor, you spend more than 50 percent of income on food,” Greb told Al Jazeera.

During Ramadan, will higher food and drink costs force households to cut back on traditional items including dates, cakes, biscuits and sugary juices, or to substitute them with cheaper alternatives? How is the cost-of-living crisis playing out for Muslims in different parts of the world? Could this have other social consequences? And can charities help?

The short answer: Across countries battered by record-high prices, many people will likely scale back traditional Ramadan celebrations — from the food they consume to the gifts they buy —  charities, community leaders and Muslim families have said. Aid groups are struggling to address the increased demand for help. But the crisis could also bring the community together in unexpected ways.

Middle East: ‘People don’t have money any more’

In addition to global forces, the region’s economies have also been battered by local factors, from wars to droughts and other natural disasters. More than 90 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line today, 12 years since the start of that country’s brutal war.

Asia: ‘My income is just not enough’

That’s also the bitter reality for Burhan, an electrician in Islamabad, Pakistan, who goes by a single name. Households across the country of more than 200 million people have been battered by a surging inflation rate, which in February was the highest in almost half a century.

Africa: ‘The needs are so much more this year’

Over in Kenya, Sheikh Juma Ngao is preparing for an unusual Ramadan. As it is, 17 percent of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty. But an inflation rate that has stubbornly persisted above 9 percent since last September is adding to the woes of most Kenyans.

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