Hunger forced children to eat paper boxes at Syria camp

Hunger forced children to eat paper boxes at Syria camp

Survivor recalls horrors she witnessed at Yarmouk refugee camp, which has been besieged by Assad regime since Dec. 2012

By Erdal Turkoglu

HATAY, Turkey (AA) - People are so hungry at the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Syrian city of Damascus that some children resort to even eating paper boxes, a survivor told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

In an interview carried out in Turkey’s Hatay province, Syrian national Ruqya Abdullah described her “hellish” experience at the camp in Syria before she fled for her life along with her three children to Turkey five months back.

Abdullah, who is just 30-years-old, blamed the Bashar al-Assad regime’s brutal blockade of the Yarmouk camp for the killing hundreds of refugees, many of whom died due to starvation.

“We didn’t even have bread crumbs to eat. We used to have water with spices to eat our fill. Especially, during the last four months, we only had watery soup instead of any kind of bread,” she said.

She recalled the deplorable situation of children, who were most affected by the camp siege.

“You might have heard of people eating cats, but I saw kids eating paper boxes. Even if you have money, there was nothing to find [to eat or buy] around. The Syrian regime blockaded the whole camp, leaving us desperate.

“The blockade most affected children. They couldn’t live their childhood anymore,” she said.

Death by hunger proved to be a scarier and a more painful scenario than getting killed by bombs for most people trapped at the camp.

“Sometimes I went searching for leftovers even under bomb attacks. People mostly died of hunger more than being exposed to bombs. We didn’t care about blasts anymore as we were really yearning for anything to eat,” she said.

“We were deprived of basic needs for living. It was kind of dream to make basic needs. It is not only me, everyone was like me. And many died of hunger. My disabled daughter had suffered a lot. She got even worse,” she added.

She claimed that aid eventually reached the camp after one year of such desperate times, but it was so little that it couldn’t even meet the people’s basic needs.

She also recalled how everyone suffered because of the relentless heavy shelling.

The Yarmouk camp has been besieged by Assad's troops since 2012. It was engulfed by intense fighting since the beginning of April 2015 when militants with Daesh and Al-Nusra Front stormed it.

The camp used to house approximately 18,000 Palestinian refugees, including nearly 3,500 children, as of early April 2015. Many inhabitants of the camp, which is surrounded by Daesh from the south, have recently moved to Turkey’s Hatay province or to the Syrian provinces of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo.

More than 1,000 civilians reportedly have been killed in the camp since the Syrian conflict began in early 2011.

Yarmouk also made headlines in 2013 when 166 Palestinian residents besieged by regime forces starved to death inside the camp.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Ahmet Sait Akcay contributed to this story from Ankara.

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