Syrian Refugee Camp Hunger Means Some Think It's 'Better To Drown' Than Live Like This

As aid dwindles in the tented camps in countries around Syria, families are struggling to feed themselves and have begun selling their possessions to be able to eat.

Some have not received food donations for several months and aren't able to buy produce in the camps where food is sometimes double the price compared usual markets.

Perwin Shamsaddeen Ali, a Syrian refugee living in a tent camp in northern Iraq, has been reduced to cooking one meal a day for her family of four.

Hamdia Yusuf will feed eight people from this pot of chickpeas, after her family have not received food donations in months

"I cook at 11 o'clock and we eat the leftovers in the evening. Why? Because we have no more food," the 28-year-old mother of two told The Associated Press, as her sons played with a balloon outside their tent.

"Today I gave the kids some noodles, that's all. That's all we had today."

According to the UN children's agency, malnutrition is a major threat among millions of refugees, as people eat less to conserve the little food they do have.

Mohammed Askar, a 39-year-old in a camp on the outskirts of Mafraq, Jordan, near the Syrian border, lost his one-year-old daughter Jawahir to chronic malnutrition. Standing at her grave near his tent with his wife and remaining children, he says: "I wish the circumstances were different and I could have saved my daughter, but we are poor and powerless and we have only God with us."

In the camp in Iraq, Ali's husband has been jobless for months, the war against the so-called Islamic State has devastated the economy of Kurdish region of northern Iraq where the camp is located. "We are selling our stuff, our household items, to get along," she says. Most of the time they sell the kerosene given to them by aid groups to help them heat their tent and cook.

The hunger in the camp has convinced some people that they would be better off heading to Europe, despite the well-known dangers of crossing the seas in smuggler boats.

"It is better for people to drown in the sea than to live here," says Ali's neighbor, 20-year-old Newroz Ahmat. "At least half of the people will make it."

Syrian refugees struggling to eat

Some refugees say the voucher system the World Food Programme uses to hand out aid in the camp is exacerbating the problem, since it can only be used in the camp's supermarket, where goods are more expensive than outside.

"A kilogram (2 pounds) of sugar costs 750 Iraqi dinars ($0.60) outside the camp. Here, it's 1,500," says Khaled Fattah, a Syrian refugee who is 42. "The same with rice. A chicken costs 3,500 dinars outside, while here it's 5,000."

A Syrian boy in Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq with a plate with boiled potatoes

A kitchen inside a tent in Iraq's Kawergosk refugee camp

Fattah, who is also unemployed, lives with his wife and give children in the camp and says he received $70 in cash aid this month, which lasted only 10 days. His wife is trying to supplement their diet by growing greens next to their tent, while he was selling half of their kerosene outside the camp.

The WFP says its Iraq operation was 61% underfunded last year. In 2015, it gave food assistance to 1.8 million displaced Iraqis across the country, plus 60,000 refugees from neighboring Syria.

People still caught up in the way are also suffering in the besieged regions of Syria. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) managed to deliver food to more than twelve thousand people in the besieged town of Moadamiyeh near Damascus on Wednesday, where thousands waited for aid.

The groups find access to besieged areas dangerous and difficult. “People in besieged areas count every day of their life as a bonus.

"They have so little to survive on," says the ICRC’s head of delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser. "They want us to bring relief regularly and that’s what we are continuously asking for.”

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