PHOTO: Children in Darayya send an SOS message, March 2016

The town of Darayya, southwest of Damascus, has been besieged by the Syrian military since late 2012, cutting off food and medicine. This winter the blockade was tightened when the road to nearby Moadamiya was seized by regime forces.

Women and children have protested in Darayya, but to no avail. The head of UN assistance, Stephen O’Brien, told the Security Council this week that the Assad regime has not allowed any aid into the town and that residents have resorted to eating grass.

The siege is raising fears of death by starvation, the fate suffered by more than 70 people in Moadamiya since last December until limited deliveries of assistance were allowed.

On Tuesday, 47 women from Darayya issued an urgent appeal:

We are women in the besieged town of Darayya and we are writing to you with an urgent call to save our town.

The Syrian tragedy continues along with its repetitive scenes of violence and siege. Our town has witnessed the worst of bombing and destruction and cruel siege for over three consecutive years. Civilians have had to pay the price under the policy of starvation.

The area is witnessing a shortage of all of the basic necessities, from the very simple, such as table salt, to the more complex, such as the ability to communicate with others. This has gotten much worse since Darayya was cut off from the neighbouring town of Moadamiyet Al Sham. The town was closed off completely in the face of fleeing civilians. We were left with a population of 8,000. There was no life outside of the basements because of the fear of being bombed. After the recent cessation of hostilities, calm returned to the town. Still, there is no life outside of the basements because all the buildings have been brutally destroyed. We’re appealing to all who see this, near and far: we need immediate assistance.

There is no food at all in Darayya. There are cases of malnutrition and we have resorted to cooking soups made purely of spices in order to stave off hunger. There are signatories to this letter that have not eaten for at least two days – some longer. There is no baby milk and no breast milk due to malnutrition. Even something as simple but as necessary as dishwashing liquid is unavailable. There are no cleaning supplies in order for us to ensure hygiene and keep diseases away.

We the women of Darayya call for:

– An immediate lifting of the siege from all sides of the town

– The opening of the roads and the entry of basic necessities, from food and medicine to drinking water, clothes, shoes and cleaning supplies

We call on the United Nations and all humanitarian and relief organisations to enter the town immediately and deliver humanitarian aid to all those affected as quickly as possible.

We appeal to journalists to write about Darayya and shed attention on the plight of our town before mass starvation takes. We are on the verge of witnessing deaths from starvation. The infants and the elderly will be the first to succumb. Please take action before it is too late.