Food ac­cess in Syria’s Raqa at ‘crit­i­cal turn­ing point’: NGOs

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Food ac­cess in Syria’s bat­tle-torn Raqa is now at “a crit­i­cal turn­ing point,” aid or­ga­ni­za­tions said yes­ter­day, with mar­kets shut­tered and res­i­dents de­pend­ing fully on their dwin­dling stock­piles. Raqa has been gripped by fierce fight­ing for nearly two months and the US-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces have ousted the Is­lamic State group from half of the north­ern city.

An as­sess­ment re­leased yes­ter­day by REACH, a network of hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions op­er­at­ing around Raqa, painted an in­creas­ingly dire pic­ture. “While in pre­vi­ous weeks res­i­dents were able to pur­chase some food at mar­kets, the ma­jor­ity of key in­for­mants re­ported that res­i­dents are now re­ly­ing en­tirely on food stored from pre­vi­ous weeks,” it said. “Food mar­kets, which were func­tion­ing spo­rad­i­cally three weeks ago, are gen­er­ally no longer in op­er­a­tion.”

Bread was con­sis­tently found in 15 of Raqa’s 24 neigh­bor­hoods sev­eral weeks ago. Now it is no longer reg­u­larly avail­able any­where in the city. Food prices have also sky­rock­eted, forc­ing res­i­dents to eat smaller meals or skip them en­tirely, the re­port said. Raqa is Be­ing Slaugh­tered Silently (RBSS), an ac­tivist col­lec­tive pub­lish­ing news from inside the city, has also warned of food prob­lems.

“The bak­eries are closed be­cause there’s no fuel or flour, and the shopown­ers have fled. What­ever flour is here is spoiled and full of worms,” RBSS ac­tivist Husaam Eesa told AFP ear­lier this month. “Peo­ple can’t store things in the re­frig­er­a­tors be­cause there’s no elec­tric­ity. They can’t cook be­cause there’s no wa­ter.” The United Na­tions es­ti­mates that be­tween 20,000 and 50,000 peo­ple are still in Raqa, but REACH said the num­ber could be as low as 10,000. It es­ti­mated that the most densely pop­u­lated district was Al-Hur­riya in the north, with at most 5,000 res­i­dents, and that 14 out of the 24 neigh­bor­hoods were aban­doned or al­most aban­doned.

Ac­cord­ing to REACH, only one wing of Raqa’s state hospi­tal is still func­tion­ing but of­fers just ba­sic first aid. Med­i­cal char­ity Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders (MSF) echoed those con­cerns yes­ter­day, say­ing wounded civil­ians were of­ten trapped in the city for days or weeks with­out med­i­cal care. “In Raqa city, if you don’t die from airstrikes, you die by mor­tar fire; if not by mor­tars then by sniper shots; if not by snipers, then by an ex­plo­sive de­vice,” a 41-year-old with shrap­nel wounds to his chest told MSF af­ter he fled Raqa. “And if you get to live, you are be­sieged by hunger and thirst, as there is no food, no wa­ter, no elec­tric­ity.”

—AFP

AL-NASHABIYAH, Syria: A pic­ture taken on July 30, 2017 shows aid pack­ages from the United Na­tions and the Syr­ian Arab Red Cres­cent (SARC) be­ing de­liv­ered to lo­cals in the rebel-held town.

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