Conditions Deteriorate For Civilians In Syria

Government forces are blocking food deliveries to city suburbs held by opposition forces. Host Scott Simon speaks with Rafif Jouejati, spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees for Syria, about the horrors of the humanitarian situation as the conflict drags on.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

For those who've chosen to remain in Syria, or for whatever reason those who can't leave, what is everyday life actually like? Well, as the civil war continues, there are millions of Syrians who war caught in the middle. Rafif Jouejati is the spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committee in Syria and she joins us from Lund University in Sweden where she's attending a conference called 48 Hours of Syria. Thank you very much for being with us.

RAFIF JOUEJATI: Thank you for having me and thank you for highlighting this tragic issue.

SIMON: Can you give us a picture of what life has become like for people who are still in Syria?

JOUEJATI: Well, for those who are trapped in the crossfire between regime forces and Free Syrian Army forces, or other opposition forces, of course they're just trying to survive the day. For others who live in more upscale neighborhoods in the larger cities, they may have started to feel some economic pinches but certainly it's not near the starvation that their compatriots are feeling in the suburbs of those big cities.

SIMON: I'm sorry if this sounds naive, but what is the source of that starvation? Why do some people have to worry about where their next meal comes from?

JOUEJATI: For areas that are firmly held by the opposition, the regime surrounding those areas outside - control the opposition armed forces will not permit food deliveries into the areas. So, for example, in Wataniya in Damascus, they have not been able to get food in for about one year now, and so the local stocks in stores and shops have run out. Many of your listeners may have seen images of people resorting to eating cats and dogs and donkeys to survive.

SIMON: Can you tell us something like how many people may have died of hunger?

JOUEJATI: We have not been able to put together statistics on the number of people who have starved to death. It is extremely difficult for us to get that information. What we have been able to document is the number of deaths that are a result of the regime's war against its own people. So we're looking at well over 100,000 people who have died - this is across the country - over the past two and a half years. And we've also documented some six million internally displaced people. In many cases, these people have been displaced numerous times and then there are, of course, two million-plus refugees in neighboring countries.

SIMON: Rafif Jouejati is spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committee in Syria. Thank you very much for being with us.

JOUEJATI: Thank you.

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SIMON: You're listening to NPR News.

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