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‘I Dream in Fruit’: What Hunger Looks Like in Syria


Hunger has become central to how Syrians experience the country’s five-year civil war. People in government and rebel territories showed how they find enough to eat.

In opposition-held areas, government forces have imposed sieges as a weapon of war, leading to shortages of food and medicine.

“All of our markets are empty because of the siege.”
Modar Shekho, 28, a nurse in rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
Mr. Shekho stocked up on supplies as best he could before the last rebel supply road into eastern Aleppo was cut off this summer. He and his wife survive on simple meals of ramen noodles, beans or vegetables. “We just hope to get some vegetables, some fruits,” he said.

“Hunger is an assassin. I feel death approaching me.”
Hala Abdulwahab, 24, a schoolteacher in besieged Madaya.
Ms. Abdulwahab eats one meal a day of lentils, rice, bulgur or grains, usually around 2 to 3 p.m. The meals are too heavy, she said. “After I eat, in 15 minutes or 20 minutes, I throw up the food.” Fuel for cooking is hard to find. “There are people cooking with books and notebooks,” Ms. Abdulwahab said. “The sight breaks your heart.”

“Now it’s a dream to find a chicken.”
Farida, 37, a doctor at a hospital in opposition-held Aleppo.
“We were eating meat two times a week, chickens one time a week,” long before her neighborhood was besieged by government forces, Farida said. “Now it’s a dream to find a chicken, and if you find it you don’t have any vegetables, like potatoes, to eat with chicken.” She cooks simple meals, mainly rice and macaroni, for her daughter and husband. One of the few obstetrician-gynecologists still working in Aleppo, she said she has dedicated her life to her job, despite increasingly challenging circumstances. “Work is my breath,” Farida said. “I love it.”

“We depend on how much we stored before the siege. If it is finished, we will have nothing to eat.”
Fatemah, 26, a mother of three in eastern Aleppo.
Fatemah ran out of gas for her stove a few weeks ago. She now cooks over an open fire using any material that will burn, such as wood or recycled plastic. “Sometimes I make pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because we don’t have bread,” she said. Every few days, she buys six pieces of bread for her family of five, but it doesn’t last. Last month, she created a Twitter account for her 7-year-old daughter, Bana, and uses it to post regular updates and advocate an end to the attacks.

In most government-held areas, life has retained a greater sense of normalcy, but food prices have soared.

“Food is very, very expensive since the war here in Syria.”
Moayad, 19, a worker at a clothing store in government-held central Damascus.
Food prices are nearly 10 times higher than before the war started, Moayad said. But life has retained a greater sense of normalcy in government-held Damascus. He often stops at a shawarma restaurant on his way home from work at a clothing store. This part of the capital escapes daily attacks, unlike neighborhoods only a few miles away.

“Sweets are almost completely eliminated.”
Lena, 40, a mother of three in central Damascus.
Lena can’t find all of the cooking ingredients she had used before the war, but she said her family of five was lucky compared with some others. She said she mostly cooks with rice and stopped eating meat because it became too expensive. An egg that once cost 5 Syrian pounds now costs 40 Syrian pounds, or about 20 United States cents, she said.

Note: Some Syrians asked that their last names not be used due to safety concerns.


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