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A mural of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (James Gordon)

Hundreds of Thousands of Syrians Are Starving As the Civil War Continues

Sieges and blocked supplies are hurting Syria's civilian population

smithsonian.com

It's been nearly two years since the fighting in Syria was dubbed a civil war by the International Committee of the Red Cross. About a year ago, we started hearing that Syria's leader, Bashar al-Assad, might have used of chemical weapons. That appeared to be true, and Syria agreed to a deal that included turning over stockpiles of weapons. (That deal is now months behind schedule.)

While high-level functionaries have been debating what to do about Syria's chemical weapons, however, Syria's population has been starving. According to a U.N. report released this week, says Al Jazeera, as many as 250,000 Syrian civilians are under siege, their access to food and medical supplies cut off “as part of a military strategy.”

“The report condemned what it called a 'starvation until submission campaign,'” Al Jazeera writes.

Last weekend, says NBC, a temporary hold between government and rebel fighters gave some civilians who had been trapped in a Damascus suburb a chance to escape. But many are still affected. 

The situation has become so desperate, Osama said, that people are now drawing blood in fights over food, and he's afraid of what may come next.

…In recent days, a small amount of food aid has trickled in through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Ahmad said this was the first actual food she and many she knows have eaten in at least four months. She said many people, especially children, had problems digesting the food since their stomachs are completely empty, and they vomited their first meals.

The rampant starvation, say Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi in an opinion story for the New York Times, “is not a famine.”

Food is abundant just a few miles away from these besieged areas. Military forces — mainly the army of President Bashar al-Assad, but in some cases extremist anti-Assad militias — are preventing food and medicine from reaching trapped civilians. In addition to starving, many people in besieged areas have been stricken by diseases, including polio, but can’t get medical treatment because doctors can’t get through.

As with chemical weapons, sieges and blocked supplies mostly strongly affect civilians, not necessarily rebel fighters.

In the shadow of it all, says Reuters, Bashar al-Assad is getting ready to run for reelection.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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