Giving back: UK charities dig deep during Ramadan

Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Volunteers at Sufra in London pack food parcels to distribute to needy families during Ramadan. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)
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International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)
International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)
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International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)
International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)
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International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)
Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Lola’s Bakery will release Eid cupcakes, committing to donating 5 percent of their sales to Penny Appeal. (Supplied)
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Lola’s Bakery will release Eid cupcakes, committing to donating 5 percent of their sales to Penny Appeal. (Supplied)
Through Muslim Aid’s ‘Feed the Fasting’ campaign you can feed a family of five in a war- or disaster-stricken country for an entire month for £60. (Muslim Aid)
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Through Muslim Aid’s ‘Feed the Fasting’ campaign you can feed a family of five in a war- or disaster-stricken country for an entire month for £60. (Muslim Aid)
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Updated 30 April 2021

Giving back: UK charities dig deep during Ramadan

International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)
  • Organizations adjust fundraising goals to meet the needs of struggling donors
  • Charity groups remain active despite pandemic threatening to push more families into poverty 

LONDON: The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected how people around the world are marking Ramadan, including how they are able to practice charitable giving, which is an important aspect of the holy month.
International charities in the UK have adjusted their fundraising initiatives because an increasing number in Britain are struggling to make ends meet.
“Ramadan this time looks very different for us,” Sarah Ashraf, community services manager at the international humanitarian charity Penny Appeal, told Arab News. 
“We have seen a massive change as there are people who are on reduced hours, on furlough, or have lost their jobs. These people are struggling financially. There is a massive need out there and if I am being honest, we are only scratching the surface.”

 

Aside from international initiatives in more than 30 crisis-hit countries, the humanitarian organization runs programs in the UK throughout the year. Ramadan is usually a busy period. Before the pandemic, they would organize community iftars and Eid gatherings that brought families from different backgrounds together. But COVID-19 has presented more obstacles.
However, Penny Appeal has still managed to reach families in need, but in a safer way. It has partnered with community hubs and local grassroots organizations to bring the community together.




International humanitarian organization Penny Appeal distributed over 350 meals to Sufra in northwest London during Ramadan. (Photo/Charlene Edwards)

Targeting vulnerable and low-income families, homeless, refugees, asylum seekers, and those socially isolated, during Ramadan it has distributed 20,000 meals across the UK. Penny Appeal has also given out 1,000 supermarket vouchers and 1,000 food parcels that contain recipe cards for families to create their own meals.
“For Penny Appeal, Ramadan is so important because it is such a blessed month,” Ashraf said. “It is about togetherness, how much charity we can do within the blessed month and how much reward we can get from it.”
The humanitarian organization has also distributed 400 activity packs for children, which include games, along with arts and crafts.
“I think the amount of people that are accessing food banks has increased enormously and we cannot shy away from those figures,” said Ashraf, who also stated that Penny Appeal has plans to expand its UK programs.




Sufra in London supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid. (Photo/Sarah Glubb)

One of the local organizations they partnered with is Sufra, a northwest London charity that supports thousands of disadvantaged families living in poverty with emergency food aid.
Last Ramadan, Sufra distributed more than 1,700 parcels and 8,000 hot meals. This year’s operation has grown five times over to meet the growing demand. As a result, its target for the “Ramadan Love Thy Neighbor” campaign is significantly higher as it has expanded its services and is trying to attract more donations.
“We know a lot of people have been struck hard during COVID-19 and have not been able to donate financially, but this is a great opportunity to be able to do something once a year to help us continue doing our work,” Nirmean Sawi, programs and services manager at Sufra, told Arab News.
The charity also launched a “Ramadan Giving” calendar to get children into the habit of regularly donating one item per day to supplement the food bank.
Besides its Ramadan initiatives, Sufra also provides social therapeutic activities and support for refugees — predominantly from Syria — as they settle into new homes in the UK. But this Refugee Resettlement Program has also been restricted due to the pandemic.

Sawi said she expects the ban on landlords evicting tenants will end on May 31. That could potentially leave more than 750,000 families in the UK, who are already behind on their rent, out in the cold.
“There are those who have been struggling with their rent and could become homeless, so we are expecting even more people will need the food bank,” she said.
“Any support we receive through our ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ campaign will help us provide food. It will also make sure we have enough resources, staff, and volunteers to be able to do this work properly.”
The furlough scheme in the UK is set to expire in September, “so we are always anticipating that a lot more families are going to be struck hard over the next year or maybe longer,” Sawi said.
Penny Appeal also partnered with a local cake specialist in north London to launch a brand new range of Middle Eastern-inspired Eid cupcakes toward the end of Ramadan “where the spirit of community giving is high.”
Lola’s Bakery will release a baklava cupcake, a rose buttercream and almond flake cupcake and a baklava layer cake, committing to donating 5 percent of their sales to Penny Appeal.




Lola’s Bakery will release Eid cupcakes, committing to donating 5 percent of their sales to Penny Appeal. (Supplied)

Muslim Aid, the second oldest Muslim charity in the country, continued its campaigns through the pandemic and is expected to launch several more domestic programs. Its food drive distributed more than 35,000 meals in December and January alone.
“Predominantly, our work is still very much as an international non-governmental organization, but there is definitely a focus on connecting the work that we do abroad with the needs of some of the communities in the UK,” Muslim Aid CEO Kashif Shabir told Arab News.
He said his organization also launched a “UK Eid Gifts” initiative this year and has partnered with Great Ormond Street Hospital, along with several other hospitals in London and the Midlands, to distribute gifts to children.




Through Muslim Aid’s ‘Feed the Fasting’ campaign you can feed a family of five in a war- or disaster-stricken country for an entire month for £60. (Muslim Aid)

“We want to give them a feeling of Eid and Ramadan while they are in the hospital receiving treatment,” Shabir said.
Muslim Aid, which started during the African famine in the 1980s, also launched Zakat guidelines to provide transparency and clarity. Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, is the charitable donation that Muslims give away each year.
Another initiative for the charity is the annual “Feed the Fasting” campaign and is already in full swing. This campaign asks donors to contribute a minimum of £60 ($73), which goes toward feeding a family of five in a war- or disaster-stricken country for an entire month. 
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made the logistics and the need of that campaign much more important this year,” Shabir said. “The UN expects an extra 130 million more people are going to suffer from some sort of food shortage this year.”

FASTFACTS

Thousands could be left homeless

A ban on landlords evicting tenants will end on May 31 that could potentially leave more than 750,000 families in the UK, who are already behind on their rent, out in the cold.


British Muslim ‘grateful’ after baby born during coma

British Muslim ‘grateful’ after baby born during coma
Updated 10 May 2021

British Muslim ‘grateful’ after baby born during coma

British Muslim ‘grateful’ after baby born during coma
  • Marriam Ahmad told she might not wake up after contracting COVID-19
  • She woke up naturally less than a day after giving birth

LONDON: A British Muslim woman said she is “grateful” for safely having a baby after she was placed in a coma due to complications from contracting COVID-19, describing it as a “miracle.”

Marriam Ahmad, 27, from the Welsh city of Newport, went into hospital in January after testing positive for the disease. 

Ahmad, who was 29 weeks pregnant at the time and suffers from asthma, did not expect to be in hospital long, but her condition deteriorated quickly.

“All of a sudden, my oxygen mask was on a much higher setting — I couldn’t hear properly,” she told the BBC. “It was very loud. I had someone washing my face, looking after me. I was very weak.”

As her condition worsened, she was told that her baby would have to be delivered prematurely by Caesarean section. A few hours later, a decision was made to place her in an induced coma.

She was warned that her baby might not be strong enough to survive, and that she might not wake up from the coma.

“It just happened so quickly. It was within about five minutes, they told me ‘you’re going on a ventilator, you’re having a c-section, the baby’s going to come out, you’ll be unconscious, you might not make it. Say goodbye’,” Ahmad said.

“I facetimed my parents and I was crying. It was only like a two-minute phone call — my mum was like ‘what are you talking about?’ I was lonely and I was scared. I didn’t even speak to my husband or my son.”

Her husband, who was looking after their 1-year-old son Yusuf, was called by a doctor to inform him of developments. Their baby was born on Jan. 18, 2021, weighing just 1.17 kg.

Surprisingly, Ahmad woke from her coma naturally less than a day later — but was unable to see her baby due to their conditions and COVID-19 restrictions. For the next few days, nurses brought Ahmad photos and videos of her baby.

“I had no idea what happened. I woke up — obviously I could see there was nothing in my stomach anymore and I was in a lot of pain,” she said, adding that staff members became deeply invested in her baby’s wellbeing. 

Ahmad and her husband decided to name their daughter Khadija. “In the Islamic faith, Khadija is a very strong, independent woman,” she said.

“From my point of view, my Khadija was very strong. She didn’t have issues, for someone being preterm at 29 weeks. They were telling me all the complications. She didn’t have any of those. It was a miracle.”

Khadija spent eight weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit before she was allowed home. After three and a half months, she weighed nearly 4 kg.

“I am just so grateful — that she’s still alive, that I am still alive,” Ahmad said. “Even though it was such a horrific, traumatic experience, I just found myself being even more grateful for the little things. Just spending time with family.”


UK to introduce checks to prevent terrorists hiring vans

UK to introduce checks to prevent terrorists hiring vans
Updated 10 May 2021

UK to introduce checks to prevent terrorists hiring vans

UK to introduce checks to prevent terrorists hiring vans
  • ‘Shocking’ that additional checks took so long, expert tells Arab News
  • Vehicles used to target bystanders in 2017 London attacks

LONDON: Van owners in Britain will be told to carry out routine checks on people hiring their trucks to prevent vehicle-based terror attacks. 

The guidance, brought in by the British Standards Institution, will expect owners to check references and employment history for evidence of criminal links. 

Vehicles will also be expected to be checked regularly to spot any signs of tampering in a way that could be evidence of preparation for criminal or terrorist acts.

European cities endured multiple incidents of terrorists using vehicles to run over innocent bystanders, such as the Westminster Bridge and London Bridge attacks in March and June 2017, respectively.

The previous summer, a truck rammed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice. Eighty-six people were killed and hundreds more injured.

Architectural changes have been made to reduce the risk of attacks, with bollards and barriers put in place on bridges and major pedestrian areas in Britain. 

Officials are also aiming to reduce the risk of trucks being used for human trafficking by organized crime gangs.

“This is a long-awaited implementation of recommendations that came out from lessons learned from the Nice attack in 2016, and the London Bridge and Westminster attacks of 2017, recognizing the ease with which terrorists had access to vehicles and the devastating impact they could have. The London Bridge attackers had tried and failed to source a larger vehicle,” former senior British military intelligence officer Philip Ingram told Arab News.

“Daesh and Al-Qaeda channels on encrypted platforms such as Telegram actively encourage the procurement and use of large vehicles for terror purposes,” he added.

“In 2017, Rumiyah, a terror magazine aimed at English-language speakers, talked of the use of vehicles, including trucks, as weapons. It’s shocking that it has taken almost four years to bring in additional checks for hiring larger vehicles.”

Transport Minister Robert Courts said the guidelines will “go a long way to help us in our fight against terrorism and organized crime.”

He added: “Terror attacks and organized crime involving commercial vehicles have had tragic and devastating effects in recent years, with every life lost leaving an unimaginable void in the lives of so many.”


India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount

India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount
Updated 10 May 2021

India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount

India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, calls for shutdown mount
  • The 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths reported by the health ministry were off a little from recent peaks

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: Calls grew for India to impose a nationwide lockdown as new coronavirus cases and deaths held close to record highs on Monday, increasing pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths reported by the health ministry were off a little from recent peaks, taking India’s tally to 22.66 million with 246,116 deaths.
As many hospitals grapple with an acute shortage of oxygen and beds while morgues and crematoriums overflow, experts have said India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported.
Sunday’s 1.47 million tests for COVID-19 were this month’s lowest yet, data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research showed. The figure compared with a daily average of 1.7 million for the first eight days of May.
The number of positive results from the tests was not immediately clear, however.
Many states have imposed strict lockdowns over the last month while others have placed curbs on movement and shut cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.
But pressure is mounting on Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown as he did during the first wave of infections last year.
He is battling criticism for allowing huge gatherings at a religious festival and holding large election rallies during the past two months even as cases surged.
“A failure of governance of epic and historic proportions,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, said on Twitter.
On Sunday, top White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said he had advised Indian authorities they needed to shut down.
“You’ve got to shut down,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” television show. “I believe several of the Indian states have already done that, but you need to break the chain of transmission. And one of the ways to do that is to shut down.”
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also called for a “complete, well-planned, pre-announced” lockdown.
New Delhi, the capital, entered a fourth week of lockdown, with tougher curbs such as the shutdown of the suburban rail network, while residents scrambled for scarce hospital beds and oxygen supplies.
“This is not the time to be lenient,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday.
“This phase is so tough, this wave is so dangerous, so many people are dying...the priority at this hour is to save lives,” he said in a televised address.
Late on Sunday, the northern state of Uttarakhand said it would impose curfew from Tuesday until May 18, just days after mass religious gatherings held in the state became virus super spreading events.
Shops selling fruits, vegetables and dairy items will stay open for some hours in the morning, while malls, gyms, theaters, bars and liquor shops are among the enterprises that will be shut, the government said.
Organizers of the popular and lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament conceded the remaining games will have to be played overseas after they suspended the contest over the virus this month.
Global support, in the form of oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and other medical gear, has poured in.
On Monday, US company Eli Lilly and Co. said it signed licensing deals with Indian drugmakers, such as Cipla Ltd., Lupin and Sun Pharma to make and sell its arthritis drug baricitinib for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
India’s drug regulator has approved the drug for restricted emergency use in combination with remdesivir for hospitalized adult sufferers in need of supplemental oxygen.
By Sunday, the world’s largest vaccine-producing nation had fully vaccinated just over 34.3 million, or only 2.5 percent, of its population of about 1.35 billion, government data shows.


Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown

Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown
Updated 10 May 2021

Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown

Britain set to ease COVID-19 lockdown
  • Rapid vaccination programs have allowed a number of wealthy nations to start taking steps toward normality

LONDON: Britain on Monday was set to announce a further easing of its coronavirus lockdown, joining several European nations in gradually reopening their economies, but India remained in the grip of a devastating outbreak.
Rapid vaccination programs have allowed a number of wealthy nations to start taking steps toward normality, but the virus is still surging in many countries and concerns are growing about global vaccine inequality.
The pandemic has claimed close to 3.3 million lives worldwide and Britain has the highest death toll in Europe, but its successful vaccination program has allowed the authorities to start relaxing curbs.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to announce the latest measures – effective May 17 – in a press conference on Monday, including the reopening of indoor seating in pubs and restaurants.
When asked during a BBC interview Sunday if hugging would be allowed, senior minister Michael Gove said: “Without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing... friendly contact, intimate contact between friends and family is something that we want to see restored.”
Cinemas are also expected to reopen, as well as some large indoor venues after the government held several pilot events – including a rock concert – to test safety measures.
This follows Spain’s lifting of a state of emergency in place since October, allowing people to travel between regions.
“It’s like New Year’s,” said 28-year-old Oriol Corbella in Barcelona, where the end of the curfew was met with shouts, applause and music.
In Germany, people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were exempt from many restrictions from Sunday after the government passed new legislation.
And Cyprus on Monday will exit a third partial lockdown with a new coronavirus “safety pass” system to allow people to move freely.


Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday

Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday
Updated 10 May 2021

Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday

Afghanistan Taliban plan three-day cease-fire for Eid holiday
  • The cease-fire would begin on either Wednesday or Thursday
  • The Afghan government has not yet responded to the Taliban announcement

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban Monday announced a three-day cease-fire for the Eid-Al-Fitr holiday this week marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The cease-fire would begin on either Wednesday or Thursday. The Muslim calendar follows lunar cycles and the Eid holiday depends on the sighting of the new moon.
Justs hours after the pending cease-fire was announced, a bus in southern Zabul province struck a roadside mine killing 11 people, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Aeian. At least 24 more people on the bus were injured. Improvised explosive devices litter the countryside and have been used extensively by the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Taliban fighters have been ordered to stop all offensives, “to provide a peaceful and secure atmosphere to our compatriots … so that they may celebrate this joyous occasion with a greater peace of mind.”
The cease-fire announcement comes amid heightened violence in the country and follows a brutal attack on a girls’ school on Saturday that killed as many 60 people, most of them students between 11-15 years old. The death toll from the three explosions continues to climb.
The Taliban denied any responsibility and condemned the attack, which occurred in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi in the west of the capital.
Attacks in the area are most often claimed by the Afghan Islamic State affiliate, but no group yet has claimed the attack on the school.
The cease-fire announcement also comes as the US and NATO are withdrawing the last of their military forces. The final 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and roughly 7,000 allied NATO forces will leave by Sept. 11 at the latest.
The Afghan government has not yet responded to the cease-fire announcement.