The continuing suffering of civilians living under siege in Syria has been brought into sharp focus by new images of a malnourished baby who later died of starvation in a suburb of Damascus controlled by the opposition.
The images, released on Monday by the news agency AFP, show Sahar Dofdaa, a one-month-old baby weighing less than 2kg, with sunken eyes and her ribs protruding through translucent skin. The child was being treated for malnutrition by a doctor in the town of Hamouria, in the eastern Ghouta region. She died on Sunday.“The supplies are very low, and if it continues more kids will die,” said one aid official, who requested anonymity.
Tens of thousands of civilians in Ghouta are living under a blockade imposed by forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. About 3.5 million people in Syria live in besieged or hard-to-reach areas, and the majority of those are in places militarily encircled by the Assad regime.
Infighting by local rebel forces and the hoarding of food supplies by merchants have worsened an already dire crisis.
Doctors and activists say food shortages are so severe that dozens of cases of malnutrition are being seen in local clinics and field hospitals. New mothers are unable to breastfeed their children because they themselves are undernourished, and products such as baby milk are almost non-existent.
Mohamad Katoub, a doctor and official at the Syrian American Medical Society, which helps to run several hospitals in Ghouta, said there were currently 68 cases of severe malnutrition in hospitals in the region. The actual number was probably higher owing to difficulties in gathering data from all medical facilities in the war-torn area. He said deaths among these patients were usually a result of malnutrition weakening their immune systems, which then failed to ward off infections.
Yahya Abu Yahya, a doctor in the region, told AFP that out of 9,700 children examined in recent months, 80 were suffering from the most severe form of malnutrition, 200 had moderate acute malnutrition and 4,000 had nutritional deficiencies.
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