The very first question that comes to my mind in the morning is “How am I going to get bread today?” As I wait for yet another Russian offensive on my city, that question is that more pressing in my head.
I have to wake at 5am, if I don’t want to spend the day without bread. Crowds of people line up in front of the bakeries, which have been working only three days a week since the siege started 70 days ago. Each family can have only five loaves of bread every other day.
If nothing out of the ordinary happens, I should have bread by 6am. I arrive at the bakery. People are gathering around the cashier, who is repeating the same sentence over and over: “I can’t give you more than five pieces”. A woman says: “I have 10 children. My daughter is a widow and she has three kids. Five loaves are not enough!” He answers: “I can’t give you more than this. I was ordered by the head of the bread distribution committee”. The situation is fine. I manage to get my bread in less than an hour.
My first mission for today is over, so I prepare for the second: to get something else to eat.
There is no proper food in Aleppo’s eastern neighbourhoods because no vegetables or meat are produced inside the city. We used to receive our food supplies through the road linking Aleppo to the countryside, but it was blocked off three months ago.
The only thing that one can find these days is whatever is left of people’s supplies of dry food, such as rice and lentils.
Even though there is not much up for sale, the local market is full of people these days. There is no shelling now, so people are out looking to buy whatever they can despite the impossible prices. We used to buy 1kg of sugar for 250 Syrian pounds ($1.2); now it is 3,000 pounds ($14).
But if you have the 3,000 pounds you pay it because you know no food supplies will enter the city in the near future. You know that once the Russian-announced truce is over, you will not be able to leave your home.
The other problem is that there is no gas to cook it with, so I have to go hunting for pieces of wood to stoke a fire with.
The place where I go rummaging for wood is full of children sent by their parents to do the same. I can hear two of them speak. “What is Mum cooking for today?” asks one of them and the other responds: “Same as yesterday and the day before yesterday!”
I go home and climb on the roof of our building to start a fire and cook something to eat.
The lack of electricity not only sends us searching for wood, but it also keeps us thirsty. In eastern Aleppo there has been a terrible shortage of drinking water. Water generators in these neighbourhoods only run on electricity.
I feel very lucky because I live in a neighbourhood that has a water well. Every Thursday we, the residents of the neighbourhood, work together to get water from the well.
We rent a generator for two hours and one of us gets the diesel to run it. The latter is difficult to find; in fact, some people have resorted to recycling plastic and rubbish to produce diesel and gasoline.
In any case, we somehow manage every time to get water for every family. People drink this water, though it is not fit for drinking; they have no other choice.
After my daily meal I take a walk to visit a friend. On the way, I see children going back home from school. Most of the city’s schools that are still operating have moved into basements. In my neighbourhood, the only school that is still running has 10 underground classrooms where 400 children, aged six to 12, have to sit in a cold, damp basement for hours.
Still, they are considered to be the lucky ones. Many children spend their days out in the streets begging for food. Many come from families who have lost their breadwinners in the war.
Almost every family has been affected by the three years of bombardment of the eastern neighbourhoods. There is a constant atmosphere of fear and anxiety among the 250,000 residents. One can see this in people’s faces in the streets and when one visits them in their homes.
Most people gather at the few places that have electricity in order to charge their mobile phones. They inevitably start talking about the truce and their expectations of what will happen after it ends.
The minute the last truce ended, Aleppo’s eastern neighbourhoods came under shelling by all kinds of weapons.
And this is what people expect when the current truce ends: fierce shelling aimed at forcing the revolutionaries out, just like what happened in other liberated neighbourhoods such as Daraya.
I chat with my friends for a couple of hours about the siege. We imagine what we will do after it is lifted and how we will manage to stay alive under the tightened siege in case it isn’t lifted soon.
The truce ends soon and a new wave of bombardment will start. In Aleppo, we have nothing else left to do but try to survive bombs, starvation and disease.