Apr 2, 2022 - World

Ramadan begins in much of Middle East amid rising food prices

People shop at a supermarket at the start of Islam's holy month of Ramadan, in Peshawar on April 2, 2022.

People shop at a supermarket at the start of Islam's holy month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on April 2. Photo: Abdul Majeed/AFP via Getty Images

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began at sunrise on Saturday throughout much of the Middle East, where Russia's invasion of Ukraine has driven up the prices of food and energy, the AP reported.

Driving the news: Muslim-majority nations including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates had announced Ramadan, when many fast from dawn to dusk, would begin Saturday morning.

  • Many in Indonesia planned to start observing Sunday, just as some Shiites in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.
  • Jordan, a predominantly Sunni country, also said the first day of Ramadan would be on Sunday, per AP.

The big picture: The start of Ramadan comes as the United Nations has warned that "people’s resilience [in the Middle East and North Africa] is at a breaking point" due to the soaring cost of food staples in the import-dependent region.

  • "We are extremely concerned about the millions of people in this region who are already struggling to access enough food because of a toxic combination of conflict, climate change and the economic aftermath of COVID-19," Corinne Fleischer, the UN's World Food Program regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.
  • "This crisis is creating shock waves in the food markets that touch every home in this region. No one is spared."

By the numbers: The cost of a basic food basket, the minimum food needs per family per month, rose 351% in Lebanon, the highest in the region, per the UN.

  • Syria saw a 97% surge in costs, and Yemen tallied an 81% increase.

Between the lines: "Even prior to the conflict in Ukraine, inflation and increasing prices were putting basic food items beyond the reach of the most vulnerable," the UN notes.

Go deeper: Surge in wheat prices expected to seed more suffering

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