People in Syria’s Raqqah hardly get adequate food: NGOs warn

Press TV – A network of humanitarian organizations, known as REACH, has raised alarm over the dire living conditions in the battle-torn Syrian city of Raqqah, warning that food accessibility there is now at “a critical turning point.”

“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,” said the group of NGOs in a statement released on Monday.

The northern city fell to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in January 2014 and the militant group declared the city its de facto capital in the Arab country some six months later.

Early in June this year, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed group of mostly Kurdish forces, launched an offensive to retake the volatile city from Takfiris. Last Thursday, the SDF announced that it was in control of over half of Raqqah.

Three years of Daesh occupation of Raqqah and ongoing fierce battles have turned large parts of the once vibrant city into rubble, with shuttered markets and residents depending entirely on their dwindling stockpiles.

“Food markets, which were functioning sporadically three weeks ago, are generally no longer in operation,” REACH further said, adding that bread was no longer regularly available anywhere in the city.

Food prices have also sharply increased, forcing locals to eat more meager meals or skip them entirely, the report said.

“The bakeries are closed because there’s no fuel or flour, and the shop-owners have fled. Whatever flour is here is spoiled and full of worms,” said the Raqqah is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) group, another NGO, in a separate statement. “People can’t store things in the refrigerators because there’s no electricity. They can’t cook because there’s no water,” it added.

The United Nations estimates that between 20,000 and 50,000 civilians are still living in the ill-fated city, however, REACH believes that the figure could be as low as 10,000. The network also said on Monday that only one wing of the city’s state hospital is still functioning but just capable of offering basic first aid.

Smoke billows out from the Syrian city of Raqqah following a US-led military coalition’s airstrike on July 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also painted an increasingly dire picture of Raqqah in a separate statement on Monday, saying injured residents were often trapped in the city for days or weeks without receiving any medical care.

“In Raqqah 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,” MSF quoted a wounded civilian as saying after he managed to flee the restive city. “And if you get to live, you are besieged by hunger and thirst, as there is no food, no water, no electricity,” he added.

Earlier this month, Nazreen Abdullah, of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units, the all-female brigade of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), described Raqqah as a “booby trapped city.”

Syria has been has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.