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In Algeria, Ramadan Comes With COVID And Water Shortages

With water rationing, soaring food prices and an economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, Algerians begin the month of fasting in difficult conditions.

People buying food in a market on the first day of the month of Ramadan in Algiers
People buying food in a market on the first day of the month of Ramadan in Algiers
Safia Ayache

ALGIERS — "We have a president who talks to us about oil, meat and Semolina," says Hafid. Speaking from his farm in eastern Algeria, the comments refer to an interview given by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a week before the start of Ramadan on April 13. The Head of State assured that food products would be available, but also warned against speculators, accused in recent weeks of forcing the price of certain basic products — including oil — to soar.

The words apparently have not reassured ordinary Algerians, as the holy month of prayer, fasting and family gatherings begins. "It is not at the time of Ramadan that I will restrict myself," says Hafid, citing the additional expenses for the various dishes — dates, fermented milk, dried fruit, cheese — that will garnish the family table to break the daily fast. "Fortunately I have my sheep, so I will not have to buy imported meat."

After oil, it is the rising meat prices that has upset consumers, and led to calls for a national boycott. In an attempt to reduce prices, the authorities proceeded in early April to issue exceptional authorizations for the import of frozen red meat from Spain. And to fight against speculative practices, the government intends to deploy 20,000 control agents throughout the country of 43 million.

The rise in consumer prices, normal at the time of Ramadan, is extreme this year.

The rise in consumer prices, normal at the time of Ramadan, is extreme this year in large part because of the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, production and manufacturing networks, says Hadj Tahar Boulenouar, president of the National Association of Merchants and Artisans. But there is also the devaluation of the national currency, the dinar, which pushes up the prices of foreign imports. This trend is directly reflected in consumer prices, as "more than 70%" of household needs "depend on imports," the economist Smaïl Lalmas told the daily El Watan.

Since the beginning of the health crisis, nearly 500,000 jobs have been lost, according to initial estimates made in December by the Algerian authorities. In the construction sector alone, the country has lost 150,000 jobs, while a reported 70% of companies are operating at less than 50% of their capacity.

This month of Ramadan could also suffer from another crisis: that of water, with rationing required despite denials by the government. On April 5 in Bordj El Kiffan, located in the eastern suburbs of Algiers, dozens of residents blocked the national road that crosses the town as well as the tramway lines to express their frustration.

Distribution of food during Ramadan in Algiers in May 2020 — Photo: Ammi Louiza/Abaca via ZUMA Press

"The water is cut off from the beginning of the evening until the next morning, but sometimes the cuts are not made at fixed times' says Latifa, a resident of downtown Algiers.

On March 22, the director general of the Algerian Water Company, Hocine Zaïr, warned that the country will move towards a distribution system of "every other day" if the water reserves are not replenished. Algeria has faced a growing decline in rainfall and a filling rate of dams to 44%, said the official.

Minister of Water Resources Mustapha Kamel Mihoubi has ensured "maintaining the supply to the population in a continuous manner during the month of Ramadan." But in the capital, inhabitants are not very confident and some have already taken measures into their own hands, installing additional water tanks on balconies or roofs of buildings.

As for small towns that are not connected to running water, locals have been relying on community solidarity for many years. On his farm, Hafid had an underground tank dug that can hold hundreds of liters.

"Whenever I need to fill it or irrigate my trees, I call my neighbor and cousin who has a well," he says. "I ended up installing pipes that connect directly to his tank, and I pay him by the hour to compensate for the electricity consumption of the water pump." Yes, family bonds are important all year round.

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Is Disney's "Wish" Spreading A Subtle Anti-Christian Message To Kids?

Disney's new movie "Wish" is being touted as a new children's blockbuster to celebrate the company's 100th anniversary. But some Christians may see the portrayal of the villain as God-like and turning wishes into prayers as the ultimate denial of the true message of Christmas.

photo of a kid running out of a church

For the Christmas holiday season?

Joseph Holmes

Christians have always had a love-hate relationship with Disney since I can remember. Growing up in the Christian culture of the 1990s and early 2000s, all the Christian parents I knew loved watching Disney movies with their kids – but have always had an uncomfortable relationship with some of its messages. It was due to the constant Disney tropes of “follow your heart philosophy” and “junior knows best” disdain for authority figures like parents that angered so many. Even so, most Christians felt the benefits had outweighed the costs.

That all seems to have changed as of late, with Disney being hit more and more by claims from conservatives (including Christian conservatives) that Disney is pushing more and more radical progressive social agendas, This has coincided with a steep drop at the box office for Disney.

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