Syrian children die of hunger under regime siege

A Syrian infant suffering from severe malnutrition is carried by a nurse at a clinic in the rebel-controlled town of Kafr Batna, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus, on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2017
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Syrian children die of hunger under regime siege

HAMOURIA, Syria: One-month-old Sahar, her ribs protruding under translucent skin, breathed her last on Sunday in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, where a crushing regime siege has pushed hundreds of children to the brink of starvation.
Only a trickle of humanitarian aid ever reaches this rebel-held region east of Damascus, under a tight blockade by Assad regime forces since 2013.
Eastern Ghouta is one of four “de-escalation zones” set up in May under a deal between backers of rival sides in Syria’s devastating six-year war.
But food supplies still rarely enter the region, where medical officials say hundreds of children are suffering acute malnutrition.
On Saturday, the parents of Sahar Dofdaa, just 34 days old, took her to a hospital in the Eastern Ghouta town of Hamouria.
Images filmed by a reporter working with AFP showed a wide-eyed girl with listless eyes and little but skin on her bones.
She tried to cry but lacked the strength to make much of a noise. Her young mother sobbed nearby.
Her skeletal thighs poked out of a nappy way over her size. Placed on the scales, she weighed less than 2 kg (just over 4 pounds).
Like hundreds of children in Ghouta, Sahar was suffering from acute malnutrition. Her mother was too undernourished to breastfeed her and her father, earning a pittance at a butcher’s shop, was unable to afford milk and supplements.

Sahar died at the hospital on Sunday morning and her parents took her — their only child — to their nearby town of Kafr Batna to bury her.
Her death came after another child in Ghouta also died of malnutrition on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Residents suffer from severe food shortages, and when goods are available in the markets, it is at a crazy price,” the Observatory said.
Medics at hospitals and health clinics in Eastern Ghouta say they examine dozens of malnourished children a day — and that the number is on the rise.
Images taken by an AFP correspondent show skeletal infants with ghostly faces. One has breathing difficulties, another has a feeding tube in its mouth and a third has a bandage wrapped around his tiny arm.
Yahya Abu Yahya, doctor and regional head of medical services for Turkish NGO Social Development International, which has several medical centers in Ghouta, said the group’s centers had examined 9,700 children in recent months.
“Of these, 80 were suffering severe acute malnutrition, 200 had moderate acute malnutrition, and about 4,000 were suffering from nutritional deficiencies,” he said.
Abu Yahya said that many children in Eastern Ghouta are suffering from “deficiencies, migraines, vision problems, depression, psychological problems".
According to UN figures, some 400,000 people live in besieged parts of Syria, the majority in Eastern Ghouta.
Despite agreement on de-escalation zones backed by regime supporters Russia and Iran and rebel sponsor Turkey, the region still has very limited access to aid.
Abu Yahya said the region was not receiving basic foods children need, such as sugar, sources of protein and vitamins.
On Sept. 23, a convoy carrying food and medical aid for some 25,000 people entered three besieged areas of Eastern Ghouta, according to the UN.
But Abu Yahya said what aid does reach the region covers just five to 10 percent of the needs of malnourished children.
Sahar was the latest victim of Eastern Ghouta's food crisis. On Sunday, her father carried the tiny child to her grave. Behind him, relatives walked with Sahar’s mother, nearly collapsing with grief.


Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

Updated 23 September 2018
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Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

  • Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead
  • ‘No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force’

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities issued a notice to residents of a Bedouin village in a strategic spot in the occupied West Bank on Sunday informing them they have until the end of the month to leave.
The fate of Khan Al-Ahmar has drawn international concern, with European countries calling on Israel not to move ahead with plans to demolish it.
Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead.
Israel says the village was built without the proper permits, though it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to receive such permission in that part of the West Bank.
The notice given to the some 200 residents of Khan Al-Ahmar on Sunday says they have until the end of the month to demolish the village themselves.
“Pursuant to a supreme court ruling, residents of Khan Al-Ahmar received a notice today requiring them to demolish all the structures on the site by October 1st, 2018,” a statement from the Israeli defense ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank said.
It did not say what will happen if they refuse to do so. Village residents vowed not to leave despite the notice.
“No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force,” said village spokesman Eid Abu Khamis, adding that a residents’ meeting would be held later on the issue.
“If the Israeli army comes to demolish, it will only be by force.”
The village is located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem, near Israeli settlements and along a road leading to the Dead Sea.
There have been warnings that continued settlement building in the area would eventually divide the West Bank in two, dealing a death blow to any remaining hopes of a two-state solution.
Israeli authorities have offered alternative sites for Khan Al-Ahmar residents, but villagers say the first was near a rubbish dump and the latest close to a sewage treatment plant.