HOULA – In the Syrian town of Houla, residents are doing all they can so as not to be left out in the cold.
But this is a besieged area in a war ravaged country, where basic necessities including food, medical supplies and fuel are in short supply.
The village, located in the northern province of Homs, has been besieged for around four years, with only a trickle of aid reaching the town.
Shortages have forced residents to find alternative sources of fuel to keep them warm during the cold winter days.
One man, Hassan Akesh, is cutting up old tires to burn for heat.
“We are in the northern province of Homs, in Houla, which is a besieged area. We are at the gates of winter so we are preparing for the cold. But heating oil is sparse, and fuels in general are not readily available. If they are available then they are quite expensive, a liter of heating oil is around 600 (Syrian Pounds) ($3) and gasoline is hard to get,” he said.
Another resident of the town, Bassam Sayed, said he began collecting fuel alternatives two months ahead of winter.
“All we have is paper, these logs and some cardboard, everything is expensive,” he said.
But even wood has become a luxury, with the price of a ton reaching 100,000 Syrian Pounds (around $460).
These are desperate times and prices have driven one woman, Um Mohammed, to use manure.
“We are making dry manure disks for the winter because heating oil is very expensive and there is no one to help us out. But thank god, we are mixing hay with cow feces and packing them into disks using our hands, we then leave them to try and use them during winter,” she said.
The United Nations, Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent have repeatedly called for more regular access into besieged areas across Syria.
The most recent aid delivery into Houla took place in March, when aid convoys reached more than 70,000 residents in the town. But the stocks soon ran out, leaving Syrians in the area to fend for themselves.