The 400,000 civilians of the Syrian district of Eastern Ghouta have been facing wartime conflicts for almost 7 years. Hundreds of thousands of innocent residents have lost their lives due to the war. Reuters reports that 300-400 civilian families sought shelter in neighboring areas since March 3rd, 2018. While many fled to the nearby town of Douma for safety; 76% of private housing in Eastern Ghouta has been destroyed by the conflict between government and rebel forces.
However, Douma is not immune from the government and rebels’ attacks; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that 27 people were killed on March 3rd, 2018 in this town alone. The mass deaths in Douma pale in comparison as there have been approximately 695 casualties in eastern Ghouta to date, 264 of which were women and children. Warplanes and helicopters continue the aerial and missile bombardment of the region leaving the area in ruins. The total number of casualties remains unknown because many bodies have not yet been recovered.
Hospitals have become a target for rebel forces and government armies. Twenty four healthcare facilities have been attacked since the beginning of the combat in eastern Ghouta. This caused the remaining clinics and facilities not to be able to care for a large number of wounded people. Hospitals also do not have the materials needed to care for the ill because the Syrian government is not allowing many of the humanitarian aid sent from the United Nations access to the region.
Officials from the Syrian government have taken surgical equipment from relief trucks preventing doctors from operating on the injured. Hospitals also don’t have access to medicines needed to treat chronically ill patients. Eastern Ghouta’s only hospital with a kidney dialysis machine is struggling to accommodate the additional patients. Relief Web International estimates that at least 430 people in the region are in need of urgent medical care.
Residents do not only have access to the aid they need, the country also has a low supply of food due to the delivery of food being restricted by armed opposition groups and government military forces. The UN World Food Programme report found that the “nearly 174,500 people trapped in the town of Douma since September have been forced to adopt emergency ‘coping strategies’…These coping strategies include consuming expired food, animal fodder and refuse, going days without eating and begging and engaging in high-risk activities to get food.”
Some have resorted to eating rubbish to avoid starvation. Because of the scarcity of food and clean drinking water, many families cannot afford to purchase some when it is available. The price of a loaf of bread has risen 2,500 % due to bakeries damaged in the conflicts. Some parents are forced to feed their children on alternating days. Electricity and fuel are also difficult to acquire so cooking is a challenge for those with access to food. Many citizens have fainted from hunger because of the food shortage and more than four people have died from hunger. One child in Douma took their own life to avoid starvation.
Russians have called for 5-hour ceasefires in which injured civilians are able to leave and aid workers can distribute relief supplies. However, many residents are afraid to leave their homes. Russia argues that this is due to the rebel forces preventing civilians from evacuating while the rebel forces insist that the residents do not leave in fear of the government. President Assad vows to continue to advance into eastern Ghouta to regain control of the region, telling journalists on state TV that “we will continue fighting terrorism … and the Ghouta operation is a continuation of fighting terrorism”.
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