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White Helmets Warn from Aleppo Starvation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Members of the Civil Defense rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Assad in al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Sultan Kitaz

Beirut- The Syria Civil Defense, or White Helmets, has warned that the people living in the besieged eastern part of Aleppo are facing starvation and death if much needed humanitarian aid and medical supplies are not delivered within 10 days.

The warning came as Syria’s regime presses the fierce assault on opposition-held eastern Aleppo. The siege has made life harder for civilians who are being forced to sift through garbage for food and scavenge firewood from bombed-out buildings.

With winter setting in, shortages of food, medicine and fuel coupled with intense air strikes and artillery bombardment are testing the limits of endurance among a population the United Nations estimates at 275,000 people.

Ammar Salmo, the head of the White Helmets’ operations in Aleppo, said that the civil defense’s warning over famine came after people began to fear dying of hunger rather than getting killed in a military offensive.

Salmo said that a civil defense center was hit in an air strike on Friday and the last maternity hospital went out of service after it was fully destroyed.

All other hospitals are no longer functioning except for a few medical centers that help the wounded.

Salmo said the condition of the injured is much worse. “They are neither receiving the necessary treatment, nor have enough food.”

“Water is contaminated and groceries are almost nonexistent,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“You cannot imagine how the situation is,” the head of the Syria Civil Defense, Raed Al Saleh, told Reuters through a translator. Saleh was in Stockholm to receive the Right Livelihood Award, known as Sweden’s “alternative Nobel prize.”

“Doctors and the rescue workers in Aleppo are just using what’s left of the equipment after bombardments to do whatever they can do,” Saleh said.

Saleh said the White Helmets had lost 50 percent of their equipment in the last two months.

“We have consumed all the stock of first aid kits in our centers and we have consumed all our stock of gas masks.

We are concerned that within ten days we may consume all our remaining stock of diesel which is required for the ambulances and the trucks to move,” he said.

The White Helmets director said his workers had responded to approximately ten chlorine attacks in Aleppo in the last ten days – the last being on Wednesday.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, said the Observatory had documented two incidents of chlorine attacks in the past fortnight.

A Red Cross official also told DPA news agency on Friday that the humanitarian situation inside eastern Aleppo “is worsening by the day.”

Food stocks are running low, causing the prices of basic food items such as bread, flour, lentils and milk to skyrocket, said Ingy Sedky, spokeswoman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Damascus.

Sedky added that fuel is running critically low in most neighborhoods in the city, and many people are completely deprived of electricity and heating in the current winter season.

“Bakeries, hospitals and homes are reliant on generators and in some cases communal generators have been shut down, leaving civilians in multiple neighborhoods without access to any form of electricity,” Sedky said.