The intensification of the siege has significantly impacted the food security situation in Duma (Eastern Ghouta). Since September 2017, cases of severe malnutrition and mortality among children have been reported including a child who took his own life due to hunger.
The very limited food sources in the besieged area, skyrocketing food prices and weak purchasing power are eroding people’s livelihoods and resilience impairing their ability to deal with future shocks. Since September, adoption of emergency livelihood and consumption coping strategies have dramatically increased. This includes consuming expired food, animal fodder and refuse, spending days without eating, begging and engaging in high risk activities to get food. Moreover, many hunger-induced fainting episodes have been reported among school children and teachers.
Due to the scarce food stock in markets and the total block of commercial supply routes, food prices have been increasing rapidly on a daily basis. For example, by mid-November 2017 a 700 grams bundle of bread was 85 times more expensive in Eastern Ghouta than in Damascus, located just 15 kms away. In August 2017 the same bundle of bread was 24 times more expensive in Eastern Ghouta than Damascus.
The majority of the besieged population in Eastern Ghouta is heavily dependent on food assistance. The content of the food basket was reported to be the only source of food that many female headed and destitute households survive on.
The escalation of fighting (including aerial bombing) that started on 14 November is expected to further deteriorate the dire food security situation of the 400,000 besieged people in Eastern Ghouta. In particular a storehouse in Duma was destroyed during the fighting, spoiling enough food rations to feed 90, five member, households for a month.
As a result of the worsening food security situation in Eastern Ghouta and the inability for the local population to access food on markets outside Eastern Ghouta, WFP is recommending that blanket general food distributions be provided till the end of the lean season (April 2018) to improve and stabilize the food security situation in the besieged area, including Duma.
Due to lack of cooking fuel, food assistance in Eastern Ghouta is recommended to include Ready to Eat rations (RTE).
Targeted nutritious food interventions need to be provided for those people found to be acutely malnourished in addition to school feeding programs.
WFP is advocating for untaxed commercial trade into the besieged area of Eastern Ghouta to be resumed as soon as possible. There is also need for food agriculture inputs (seeds, livestock and agricultural tools) and technical assistance such as improved farming techniques and irrigation.