AMMAN: A stifling Islamic State encirclement of two remaining regime-controlled districts of Deir e-Zor city is causing inflation and scarcities, with citizens living mainly on bread and water, with tea now being sold by the gram, local activists told Syria Direct on Monday.
“The average family meal in Deir e-Zor consists of a cup of rice, boiled wheat and water,” local citizen journalist Ahmed al-Alou told Syria Direct Monday.
"A kilo of rice now costs SP3,000 ($15.80), a kilo of sugar SP3,700 ($19.50) and tea costs SP20,000 ($106.00) per kilo,” said Rami al-Hakim, the director of the Deir Ezzor24 news outlet.
Prices are so prohibitive that “tea is being sold by the gram,” al-Hakim told Syria Direct on Monday. A teabag, by way of comparison, weighs two grams.
A woman leaves a bakery after a long wait in regime-controlled Deir e-Zor on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently.
The people living in the regime-controlled districts of al-Joura and al-Qusur have been completely trapped since mid-2014, when IS militants swept across the eastern Syrian province expelling FSA-affiliated rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra.
In September 2014 the Siyasiya Bridge, which was the only main route into the provincial capital across the Euphrates River, was destroyed in fighting between the regime and the Islamic State.
Since that time, the only way in or out of Deir e-Zor city, for goods and people, is through the Syrian army’s military airbase a few kilometers to the southeast.
“The small amount of food that enters the city is completely controlled by regime brokers,” said Alou.
It is not just food that is barred from entering the two districts. Medicine is in such short supply that unusual diseases such as leishmaniasis, a flesh-eating disease prevalent in malnourished populations, have appeared, Mujahid a-Shami, director of the Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently media campaign, told Syria Direct Monday.
“Our campaign has documented the deaths of 18 children due to hunger and 12 adults from lack of access to medicine since the beginning of the siege,” said a-Shami, referring to the Islamic State’s near-complete takeover of the provincial capital in the late spring of 2014.
Other documented diseases afflicting citizens include stomach ulcers and hepatitis, he said. The Islamic State is blockading the two districts as the regime strictly controls the food supply, making both parties complicit in starving Syrians, activists say.
“IS and the regime are trading in the lives of the families in the besieged neighborhoods,” said a-Shami.
Reporting by Orion Wilcox.