Syrian conflict: What it’s like to be trapped inside ‘hellish’ Eastern Ghouta

Source: ABC

“In the last few weeks there is every day more than 20 air strikes from Russian warplanes or Assad regime warplanes,” 21-year-old Nour Adam says. “Shellings, missiles, everything!”

The young opposition media activist is speaking from inside the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, just 20 minutes from the Syrian capital Damascus, where the United Nations believes there is close to 400,000 people trapped under increasing bombardment.

Over 80 civilians, including 30 children, have been killed here in Syrian government attacks in just the past two weeks, according to the UN.

In between dangerous trips out of his house to document the aftermath of deadly airstrikes, Nour sent voice messages to the ABC over WhatsApp describing life inside Eastern Ghouta.

“No one family in all Eastern Ghouta has not lost a son or a father or a mother. I told you it’s like hell,” Nour said.

“Yesterday my friend’s sister died because of the shelling on the building in Douma city”

The young activist has seen dozens of civilians killed in the last few weeks.

“We are living in nightmare here in Ghouta,” he said sadly.

“It’s like a horror movie.”

‘The situation of children is dire’
The regime of Bashar al Assad has maintained a tight siege on the area, once again using deliberate starvation as a weapon in this conflict.

Dr Baker Abu Ibrahim is a doctor working in a clinic funded supported by Medicins Sans Frontieres in Eastern Ghouta.

“Due to the lack of food and the rising prices, we start to see many cases of malnutrition, among kids and babies,” he said via WhatsApp.

“I know families living on one meal a day.”

In December, the Syrian Government allowed the UN to bring in a limited amount of aid into Eastern Ghouta, but Tamara Kummer from UNICEF said it was nowhere near the level of food needed.

“Generally the situation of children is dire,” Ms Kummer said.

“We recently conducted a study in the area to estimate malnutrition levels among children, and found that in children under five years old in Eastern Ghouta, 12 per cent suffer from malnutrition and this is the highest rate of acute malnutrition that has ever been recorded in Syria since the beginning of the conflict.”

‘We will never leave’
The Syrian Government is currently preventing UN food convoys from entering Eastern Ghouta.

“Certainly our access to Eastern Ghouta has been extremely challenging,” Ms Kummer said.
“We are not always granted the permission that we need to get humanitarian assistance into the areas.”

Ms Kummer said children were bearing the brunt of the siege.

“One of our UNICEF colleagues who recently participated in a convoy to the area described seeing children who were so thin because of the malnutrition in the area that their forearms resembled little fingers because they had grown so frail from lack of food,” she said.

Nour said despite the horror, he would rather stay in Ghouta than surrender and go live under the rule of Mr Assad.

“We will fight for the longest we can,” he said.

“We will never leave Ghouta until we are dead.”