Syrian children die of hunger under regime siege
Syrian children die of hunger under regime siege
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.
Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential election
- Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count
- The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday declared victory in a tightly-contested presidential election, extending his 15-year grip on power in the face of a revitalized opposition.
Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap polls, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The stakes in this election are particularly high as the new president is the first to enjoy enhanced powers under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan.
Erdogan was on course to defeat his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with more than half the vote without needing a second round, initial results showed.
“The unofficial results of the elections have become clear. According to these... I have been entrusted by the nation with the task and duties of the presidency,” Erdogan said at his Istanbul residence.
He added that the alliance led by the AKP had won the majority in parliament.
Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count.
The figures could yet change as final ballot boxes are opened.
But celebrations were already beginning outside Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and AKP headquarters in Ankara, with crowds of flag-waving supporters, AFP correspondents said.
Trailing were Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent and Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with almost eight percent.
A count of almost over 95 percent for the parliamentary election also showed that Erdogan’s AKP — along with its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies — were well ahead and set for an overall majority.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber.
Turnout in the presidential election was almost 88 percent, according to the figures published by Anadolu.
Erdoogan had faced an energetic campaign by Ince, who has rivalled the incumbent’s charisma and crowd-pulling on the campaign trail, as well as a strong opposition alliance in the legislative poll.
Ince vowed to spend the night at the headquarters of Turkey’s election authority in Ankara to ensure a fair count and urged supporters to stay in polling stations until the final vote was counted.
The CHP said it had recorded violations in particular in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, although Erdogan insisted, after voting himself, there was no major problem.
“I will protect your rights. All we want is a fair competition. Have no fear and don’t believe in demoralizing reports,” Ince said after polls closed.
Several world leaders supportive of Erdogan, including Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, called to congratulate him on his “victory,” the presidency said.
Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and autocratic behavior.
Although Erdogan dominated airtime on a pliant mainstream media, Ince finished his campaign with eye-catching mass rallies, including a mega meeting in Istanbul on Saturday attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
The president has for the last two years ruled under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup, with tens of thousands arrested in an unprecedented crackdown which cranked up tensions with the West.
Erdogan, whose mastery of political rhetoric is acknowledged even by critics, has won a dozen elections but campaigned against the backdrop of increasing economic woes.
Inflation has zoomed well into double digits — with popular concern over sharp rises in staples like potatoes and onions — while the Turkish lira has lost some 25 percent in value against the US dollar this year.
But the opposition has lambasted the uneven nature of the poll, which saw state-controlled television ignore Ince’s giant rally in Istanbul on the eve of the election.
And in a situation labelled as blatant unfairness by activists, the HDP’s Demirtas has campaigned from a prison cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.
After casting his ballot in his jail in the northwestern region of Edirne, Demirtas wrote on Twitter: “I wish that everyone uses their vote for the sake of the future and democracy of the country.”