Syria, Madaya: In Syria, Families are eating leaves, grass and water flavoured with spices in town of Madaya, where rice is sold by the gram because a kilogram costs as much as $200. Some have killed and eaten their pets. “People are dying in slow motion,” said Louay, a social worker from the town told the Guardian in a phone interview, his voice weakened by months of abject hunger. “We had some flowers growing in pots at home. Yesterday, we picked the petals and ate them, but they were bitter, awful.”
Up to 40,000 people in the besieged Syrian settlement of Madaya have been forced to turn to leaves and flower petals to stay alive after eating all of the town’s stray dogs and cats. Photographs and videos taken inside the former holiday resort show the corpses of men, women and children who have died of starvation as the siege enters its sixth month.
As the Syrian winter grips the city, electricity is in short supply and food sources almost non-existent. Soldiers loyal to Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad and members of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah continue to surround the city, cutting off fresh supplies of food and drink and preventing citizens from escaping by filling the surrounding countryside with landmines.
One image shared on Facebook appears to show a desperate citizen preparing to slit the throat of a cat while other photos show malnourished children eating a broth made of olive tree leaves and water.
“There are no more cats or dogs alive in the town. Even tree leaves that we have been eating have become scarce,” local resident Abu Abdul Rahman told Al Jazeera. “Describing the situation as tragic is merely airbrushing reality on the ground,” he added.
The situation is so desperate that starving residents spend their days trying not to move in an attempt to conserve energy. With temperatures falling, the Red Cross says locals have been forced to burn plastic to keep warm, exposing themselves to fumes. While this may be just about enough to keep some otherwise healthy adults alive, children, the elderly and the sick are dying on a daily basis.
“We cannot provide milk for infants,” Dr Khaled Mohammed told Germany’s Deutsche Presse news agency. “Today, a 10-year-old child died of malnutrition,” he added. Dr Mohamad Youssef, who acts as the manager of the medical council in Madaya, told SKy News that two or three residents are dying of starvation every day. “The death toll is striking mostly the elderly, the women and children,” he said. “The medical staff are on high alert 24 hours [a day]. They are receiving people who are severely ill and fainting all hours – day and night,” he added.