UN distributes Ramadan meals to 55,000 Libyan refugees in Tunisia

A young refugee carries away a box of food for the evening meal during Ramadan

3 August 2011 – The United Nations refugee agency and its partners in Tunisia are distributing food for more than 55,000 Libyans who have fled the fighting in their homeland to help them prepare their evening meals during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

The logistics of the operation have gone very smoothly thanks to cooperation between all those involved, including the Government, Nasir Abel Fernandes, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) senior emergency coordinator in southern Tunisia, said today.

Some 400 staff from UNHCR and other local and international organizations, including the World Food Programme (WFP), have helped pack, transport and distribute the food at more than 34 distribution points across southern Tunisia.

Well over half a million people, including migrant workers, refugees and asylum-seekers, have fled to Tunisia since fighting erupted in February between a pro-democracy movement and the four-decades-old regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi.

Most of the Libyans have few resources and are happy to receive the food. “This donation will be a great help in cutting down family expenses during Ramadan,” said 72-year-old Ali as he queued for his food package in UNHCR’s Al Khayr distribution centre in the town of Tataouine.

Ali, who fled to Tunisia in April with a large group of relatives, said Ramadan was very important to him and his family. “Ramadan is an occasion for family reunions,” he said, adding sadly: “Although the Tunisians are being very generous, we are finding it difficult to feel at home because our community network has been disrupted.”

Fifteen items, including rice, pasta, couscous, oil, tomato paste, tuna, sugar and dates, are being handed out in five southern Tunisian provinces, where tens of thousands of Libyans are staying in camps or living with host families. The food will be eaten during iftar, the evening meal. During Ramadan, which started on Monday, Muslims are forbidden to eat or drink during daylight hours.

Other organizations taking part in the operation are the Tunisian Red Crescent, the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent, Islamic Relief, Al Tawoon, Secours Islamique France, Secours Populaire Français, Wafa Relief and the Libyan Relief Committee.


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