The Syrian regime's siege of the Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus is causing a severe shortage of food and medical supplies, a local activist told Diyaruna.
The shortage was accompanied by an astronomical hike in prices, with relief organisations scrambling to provide citizens with whatever food items they have left.
"All routes to the Ghouta region have been completely cut off for the past five months," al-Marj medical bureau director Dr. Anas Abu Yassir told Diyaruna.
A ceasefire that went into effect in July stipulated that all crossings be re-opened to allow for the delivery of food and medical supplies.
"But regime forces have maintained the siege," he said, adding that they opened the al-Wafideen camp crossing, the only viable route, only twice during the last period.
This has led to a severe shortage of food and medical supplies, which is exacerbated by merchants exploiting the situation and raising prices to insane levels, he said.
"Greedy merchants have stockpiled large quantities of food items that they obtained through smuggling operations," Abu Yassir said.
"Their excuse is always that the increase in price is due to the high cost of transportation and the fees smugglers collect from both sides," he added.
Relief organisations in the region formed a joint liaison committee that is working through the Rural Damascus Governorate Council to deliver available food items to the neediest residents, he said.
The committee has made some items like cooking oil, sugar and rice available at very low prices, he added.
"It also made fuel oil and flour available to bakeries at low prices in an effort to bring the price of a bundle of bread down to 700 Syrian pounds [$1.36] from 1,000 pounds," he said, noting that the support covers all the villages and towns of Eastern Ghouta.
The siege has also affected medical supply stockpiles, particularly medicine for chronic diseases, the elderly and children, as well as vaccines, serums and first aid materials.
"The consequences of this shortage will be catastrophic as winter approaches," he said.