One-quarter of the world’s population is anemic, according to the World Health Organization. That includes nearly half of all preschool-age children. In that age group, almost half of all deaths are due to undernutrition—that’s about 3 million children every year.
For many impoverished families, one major factor in their poor health is their inability to buy meat.
On Eid al-Adha, IRUSA donors will turn worship a blessing for many of those families by sending them a gift of meat.
Qurbani—also known as Udhiyah—is IRUSA’s biggest food program. This fresh, halal meat donors share is often the only meat the recipients eat all year. It’s both a rare holiday treat and a nutritional boost.
IRUSA Programs Specialist Bilal Aslam visited a health project in Jordan in July. Doctors there told him anemia is common among Syrian refugees.
“They said people will be dizzy, they’ll have headaches and feel lethargic, and that affects their productivity,” he said. “Imagine if that’s the condition for a child who’s trying to study and be productive in school but he doesn’t have the right nutrition. It has a long term impact.”
While Qurbani is not going to solve that problem, the meat is a supplement, he said. “It does provide them added nutrition when otherwise they wouldn’t have access to it.”
This year, Islamic Relief staff around the world hope to deliver enough U.S. donors’ gifts to serve more than 700,000 people.
Mohammad in Myanmar was one of those happy recipients last year. Twenty-year-old Mohammad was struggling to support his wife and baby as a laborer. After his father died, he had taken on the care of his mother and three sisters too. He earned about $3 a day, and spent nearly all of it on food. He could rarely buy meat.
“Today I’m privileged to cook beef for my whole family,” he said when he picked up the meat last year.
It takes a massive worldwide effort to efficiently coordinate the deliver of donors’ gifts even in hard-to-access places like Myanmar. It all starts months in advance.
About four months before Eid, Bilal said, field office staff begin taking bids from vendors to provide the animals and the preparation services. Then they begin identifying community members in need of the meat. Everyone must qualify based on factors like need, household size and income level.
After all of the arrangements are in order, local staff begin planning the distribution days. Details vary by country, but in some cases, recipients receive a ticket to exchange for the meat to ensure a quick and efficient distribution. In some countries, staff will even provide the recipients with a little money to cover their transportation costs—otherwise, many could not even afford to come and get it.
Islamic Relief Worldwide staff in the United Kingdom organize the whole effort.
“They’re coordinating across 40-something countries,” Bilal said. “They’re maintaining the quality and ensuring beneficiaries are being selected appropriately. They make sure the distribution is done at a timely manner and everything is done in a hygienic way so everyone stays safe.”
In the United States, meanwhile, some local staff are making similar preparations for U.S. recipients, while others coordinate U.S. donors’ overseas gifts.
At many Islamic Relief offices around the world, Qurbani means all hands on deck, from the full-time staff to volunteers who help with the distribution.
“You could easily have 10, 20, 30 people in each country,” Bilal said. “Even in a small operation you’re going to have at least five to 10 people.”
Finally, Eid arrives and all the plans fall into place, and local staff deliver your meat to families like Mohamad’s. Some recipients report that it makes their families stronger, but others just know it makes their Eid special.
“I could not make my family smile, but you did,” Mohamad said. “I would like to say thank you so much to the donor who gave us the beef for Eid—one of our very special occasions!”