Monday 11 December 2017

Locals risking their lives smuggling medicine to Homs

Shocked by the desperate plight of civilians in the besieged city of Homs, citizens from other parts of Syria are risking their lives to smuggle in food and medicines.

People from Damascus and Aleppo told of the secret operations to bring aid to those trapped in the bombardment.

Sana (31) an Aleppo resident, said medicines had to be hidden on the journey to avoid punishment by the regime for helping the opposition.

"I travel by public minibus, hiding small amounts of medicines and money at the bottom of my bag," she said.

The road from Aleppo to Homs is strewn with checkpoints of the much-feared Mukhabarat intelligence service. Stopping every vehicle, they compare identity cards against the now extensive list of people wanted for joining the Syrian opposition.

"If [the Mukhabarat] found out, they would arrest me for helping the terrorists. But these are civilians," said Sana, the mother of a nine-year-old boy.

"They think anyone who opposes the government is a terrorist, so now Syria is a nation of terrorists."

Noura (26) has made the perilous journey nine times. "I spoke with a man who for the past 15 days has only had crisps to eat," she said. "All the buildings were shaking from the shelling. Families are trapped four or five to a house without any food."

People in Homs were collecting rain water in buckets for lack of anything to drink, said witnesses.

As supplies in the shops run out and access to Bab Amr -- the rebel stronghold in the city -- becomes, in Sana's words, "mission impossible", locals are trying to survive with what pitiful goods are left.

Activist networks are working to organise supplies in bigger quantities. A man calling himself Mohammed said: "I have 40 main sources in Damascus who give us medicines. Many are doctors and sympathetic residents.

"We ran across the rooftops [to reach the field hospital]. I had a backpack full of medicine, and carried two more. I could hear bullets smacking into the sides of the walls as snipers tried to shoot us. When I arrived they called me Father Christmas."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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