Supplies of flour and bread are exhausted in the besieged Rukban camp in southeast Syria, threatening tens of thousands of displaced people with starvation.
Residents say there have been no provisions since last Friday, even at sharply inflated prices, as the Assad regime tightens its blockade.
Abu Ahmad, a young father, told Madeline Edwards of Middle East Eye that a kilogram of vegetables is now 750 lira ($1.45) and a liter of oil 1,200 ($2.33). The absent flour was priced at $1.36 per kilo.
Abu Ahmad said the family of seven — he and his wife, infant son, mother, two brothers, and sister-in-law — went without bread.
More than 14,000 residents have been forced back to home areas despite fears of detention, forced conscription, and harassment and uncertainty about the status of their property. But more than 25,000 still remain in the makeshift mud homes and tents in the barren area near the Jordanian border.
Many of the people fled in 2015 amid Islamic State attacks in their areas. The Assad regime, trying to proclaim “reconciliation” taking all opposition territory in southern Syria, cut the main route into the camp last autumn and has allowed only two aid convoys since January 2018. Russia has backed the siege with pressure and propaganda declaring that US-supported “militants” are holding the residents hostage.
Women and Newborns Threatened
The camp has only rudimentary clinics, with no doctors and a lack of essential medical supplies. Emergency cases are supposed to be evacuated to Jordan, which closed its border in 2016 after an Islamic State suicide attack; however, the process has been difficult — earlier this month, a woman and her newborn son died when they could not be moved and there was no response to calls for an ambulance.
Last Friday, another pregnant woman lost her twins to miscarriage said Shukri Shihab, a camp nurse.
“She didn’t have vitamins,” Shihab explained. “She was suffering malnourishment.”
The nurse continued, “I now see five children with malnourishment per week, before the shortage I used to see only one.”
Shihab said that he has searched Rukban for baby formula for his granddaughter, born two months ago, but there is none in the market: “Her mother’s breast milk, it’s not enough.”
“On the Cusp of Death”
Abu Ahmad said his family’s return to Homs Province is too risky, as he is a military defector, and he cannot afford to pay smugglers to get to opposition-held northwest Syria.
So he and his wife feed their infant son on breast milk and sugar water. The adults eat lentil soup.
“We’re living here on the cusp of death — conditions in Rukban are worse than zero,” he says.