Muslim Aid helps slum dwellers buy food in Ramadan
Kawsar Monsi, a blind man who lost both his eyes when he was just seven years old, ekes out a living begging on the streets. The physically challenged man who didn’t dare enter a departmental store fearing he might be driven out, now goes to Prince Bazar in Dhaka’s Mirpur to buy groceries for himself and his family.
People from the slums, often driven out of chain department stores for their ragged appearance, now can shop there, thanks to Muslim Aid, a UK based NGO.
“Ramadan comes and goes, but our fate does not change. We could not buy food for sehri or iftar. But as of Sunday, we could buy chickpeas, sugar, oil, fruits, meat, flattened rice, and shemai [vermicelli],” said Karuna Begum, wife of Kawsar Munsi.
“The NGO provided us with a 2,300tk voucher to buy groceries. With this help, we can survive the month of Ramadan. Last year too, we bought food from this departmental store. Initiatives like this give us courage,” she added.
Like Kawsar Munsi, 266 people availed this opportunity, including Abdul Matin, Billal, Rubel,and Siddik Gazi.
Abdul Matin says: “We are now able to fulfil our dreams of buying food from a super store where only the rich can enter. Since we live in the slums we are not allowed to enter a superstore. We cannot even afford to walk into a place like that and buy groceries because we do not have enough money. Thanks to Muslim Aid which has made it possible. We are very grateful.”
Although the NGO started operating in Bangladesh in 1991, it started giving out food vouchers in the last two years.
The organization says it plans to provide 400 poor people with food vouchers with the slogan, “feed the fasting.” In the first two days of their giving out vouchers this year, 164 people bought groceries using the food vouchers. In the second phase, 102 people bought food on Tuesday morning.
“The food voucher was set at Tk2,300 based on an estimated month’s food expense for one person. With this package, poor people can indulge in decent food of their liking for a few days during Ramadan. If we have enough funds, we will continue with this initiative,” said Shah Waliullah, special program coordinator for Muslim Aid.
We are giving this to people of the Bhashantek and Molla slums recently beset by fire. There are 67 people with disabilities, 41 lactating mothers, 3 pregnant women, and 23 widows among the 164 people who bought food in the first phase, he added.
Talking to Prince Bazar’s Branch Manager, Shamsuddin Omar, he said: “They never dreamed they would ever shop in such a place. When they came in, they looked very happy but the environment in the store changed a little. Most customers are not used to seeing them here so we fixed a time for them to come in and use their vouchers.”