Over the course of its brutal six-year war, many cities, towns and communities across Syria have endured sieges. Many of these sieges, such as those in Aleppo, Madaya, Zabadani and the Wa’er suburb of Homs city, ended with the locals capitulating to the government forces and agreeing to evacuate to other parts. Others, such as the eastern Qalamoun Mountains, have been in an extended state of ceasefire that has allowed trade to continue.
However, there are still a number of communities that continue to endure day-to-day siege, many people eking out a bare living. The siege in the northern Homs countryside sometimes known as the “Rastan Pocket” is one such place. Consisting of a number of towns and villages, the pocket has been designated as part of a de-escalation zone during the Astana talks.
It was hoped that the designation would reduce local fighting and facilitate the entry of aid, allowing for the humanitarian conditions to improve. However, the entry of aid has been repeatedly delayed and the rebel and government forces continued to trade fire across the frontlines. Local councils and organisations have, so far, been unable to negotiate the delivery of enough supplies to alleviate the conditions.
Through it all, the locals in northern Homs have endured the most. The on-going siege and fighting have prevented many of the local farmers from attending their fields and harvesting grain. This, in turn, caused food prices to skyrocket across the region, depriving many families of a staple Syrian commodity. A bundle of bread now costs 500 lira or $1.5, enough to render bread out of reach for many of the poorest here. Fuel prices have also risen sharply.
Many families have since resorted to cooking on wood or peat fires and making their own bread with what little flour they can source. It is hard and arduous work. But for many, it is the only option they have.