Tuesday 22 May 2018

Children eating animal feed in Ghouta, claim aid workers

Syrians run for cover in Eastern Ghouta yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Syrians run for cover in Eastern Ghouta yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Josie Ensor

After stepping out of his truck, Pawel Krzysiek looked around at a town that no longer seemed habitable. Until Monday, the aid worker had only seen the destroyed landscape in pictures.

From the wreckage of the neighbourhood of Douma, which has borne the brunt of the Syrian government's offensive on besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, came families desperate for food.

Hossam Hawari, 8, is treated for a shrapnel wound yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Hossam Hawari, 8, is treated for a shrapnel wound yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

"My children have been living in the basement for 15 days to escape the bombs," one mother told Mr Krzysiek, who works for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), saying they had only mouldy bread and animal feed to eat. "Why is no one helping us?" she implored. "Why can't someone stop this? Will the world stay silent?"

The convoy of 46 trucks carrying UN aid was the first into the Damascus suburb since last month, and the ICRC's first since last November.

Surrounded by the forces of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, residents of Eastern Ghouta are struggling to find food, and it is getting worse every day.

"Everything is missing from their society. There is no society," Mr Krzysiek told 'The Daily Telegraph' by telephone from Damascus.

"There are no markets, no medicine, no basic supplies, they can't even go to medical facilities because they are afraid of being hit."

He said hundreds of people displaced by the fighting in other districts had gathered in makeshift shelters underground.

"The few people there who have food feel bad eating it in front of the others," he said. "So they go out on the street to eat, where they are dangerously exposed to air strikes.

"The residents appreciate the humanitarian aid that was brought in - of course they want food and medicine - but really they just wanted shelling to stop. They genuinely fear for their lives and how this will all end.

"They told us: all we want is to stay here and live in dignity, and if we can't live in dignity, at least let there be some for our children."

Anger towards the UN among residents has been building since the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on a 30-day ceasefire last month without implementing it. More than 250 have died in the last 10 days.

"I thought people would be much angrier, much more aggressive towards us, which I would not blame them for at all," Mr Krzysiek said. "They have the right to be angry, the conditions they're living in are very difficult."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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