The story of 'Um Hussein' in besieged East Ghouta

The elderly woman Um Hussein lives in Nashabiya, a small area in the besieged Damascus suburb of East Ghouta.

Nashabiya and other areas of rebel-held East Ghouta have been under a regime-imposed siege for over four years with the treacherous and crushing results of the blockade showing little sign of abating. Handicapped and without any help except for God and a few children, one of whom is ill, Um Hussein suffers like hundreds of thousands of others in East Ghouta.

In order to survive, Um Hussein must sell household items or find leaves and twigs to burn for fire. With the weather turning ever colder and temperatures plummeting, the misery for her and her family is compounded. Her son, who has come to her dilapidated house to help care for her, tells of the suffering faced by the family.

“We came here to our mother, Um Hussein, as her situation is very bad. She is handicapped and her son is ill,” said the son. “She has no benefactor but God and her son. As a result of the imposed siege, all families’ situations are terrible. This is the case for hundreds or thousands of families in the eastern Ghouta.”

While Nashabiya has witnessed less conflict than other fault lines in East Ghouta, like Jobar and Ain Tarma, which have effectively been turned into vacant and population-less war zones, Nashabiya has neither been exempt from regime shelling and air strikes nor the effects of rebel infighting.

In recent weeks, international condemnation of the siege imposed by the Syrian regime has increased, despite a short-term pause in the fighting agreed yesterday. The UN has labelled child malnutrition in East Ghouta the worst in Syria, with images of children with skeletal frames spreading on social media.

Some aid over the past month has entered East Ghouta, although many residents in the suburb note that this is not enough to cover even a tenth of the population. But with international criticism mounting, the hope is that people like Um Hussein can receive aid and support, as well as medical treatment for her ailments.