As nearly 600 days under siege sap the life and dignity out of the Old District in the Syrian city of Homs — leaving malnourished men with legs like noodles and soot-stained children to dig through homes turned into rubble for bits of firewood — diplomats in picturesque Geneva bicker over aid.
“The situation is unbearable and inhuman. Food, there is none. Medical supplies, there is none. Milk for children, there is none. It is beyond words.” Mohammed Abu Yahay tells CNN through a crackly Skype connection.
The Geneva peace talks seemed to matter little to residents living on perpetually empty bellies who demanded all parties put aside their differences to break the almost two-year siege of Homs rather than agree to a temporary solution from a reluctant regime.
The United States blamed the Syrian government for the dire situation, accusing it of waging a “kneel or starve campaign.” As the bitter winter cold retains its hold on the restive city, activists and residents say starvation and the lack of basic medical care claim lives regularly as Syrian troops and some opposition forces prevent the delivery of aid, according to a report from Human Rights Watch last month.
Tree leaves, grass, olives and stale grain are all that’s on the menu at many homes in the old districts of Homs, where many residents say they struggle to get just one meal a day on the table while loved ones with preventable diseases languish in a makeshift medical clinic with “medieval health care.”
“The world must help us; they can’t watch us drown in a sea of suffering, pain and death and do nothing after more than one and a half years of being under siege” the Rev. Frans, a Dutch Jesuit and longtime Syrian resident, said in broken Arabic on social media.
“I think that there is a lack of pressure from the international community on the barbaric regime. It is inhuman that they are fighting us over a loaf of bread. Cutting of water, electricity, and preventing any aid organization from entering. This situation reflects poorly on the international community to help these besieged areas,” Dr. Abo Ramez said.