Recession makes Dhaka alms givers reticent in Ramadan

Wed Sep 2, 2009 10:22am EDT
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By Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters Life!) - Muslims traditionally give more alms during the Ramadan holy month, but this year, the global economic crisis has made some in largely impoverished Bangladesh less generous.

Workers' remittances and ready-made garment exports are the mainstays of Bangladesh's economy.

But many Bangladeshi workers overseas have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn and the garment sector has also been hard hit, with Abdus Salam Murshedy, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, saying some textile exporters could be facing financial difficulties.

All of this bodes ill for beggars such as Hanufa Begum who come to Dhaka each year during Ramadan to seek enough alms to take home to her family at the end of the fasting month.

"I don't know how much I would actually earn before I go back home ahead of Eid-al Fitr," said the mother of four, referring to the feast that marks the end of Ramadan.

Nearly 90 percent of Bangladesh's 150 million people are Muslim. About half the population lives on less than $1 a day.

The troubled garment sector employs some 2.5 million people, and some workers say they have not been paid for months.

"Nowadays we find it harder to put together a decent meal to break our day-long fast," said factory worker Nazmul Hossain.   Continued...

<p>Volunteers distribute free food for iftar (breaking fast) inside the national mosque in Dhaka September 2, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj</p>