ALEPPO, Syria — The largest rebel base in Aleppo, Syria is in danger of being taken over by Syrian forces and the single supply road into the city has been targeted as part of the siege. Syrian regimes have used starvation as a weapon of war successfully in Homs, Damascus and other regions to get rebels to abandon their demands and this seems to be the strategy for Aleppo as well.
So far Syrian forces have taken over large portions of the southern countryside of Aleppo and as a result, have also obtained a supply route to west Aleppo, another area partially under their control.
A United Nations Human Development report on poverty in Aleppo and Syria found that 2.2 million Syrians live in extreme poverty. A 2010 follow-up report revealed this number had risen from 11.4 percent in 2004 to 12 percent in 2007. Meanwhile the number of people living in poverty increased to 33 percent.
In rural areas, 1.3 million were affected by drought conditions and most relied on a diet of bread and sugared tea for survival. Crop harvests in 2010 were also reduced by one third of their target yield. Conditions have worsened since then due to the political instability of the country beginning in March of 2011. Presently the rebel held area in Aleppo has only one supply road known as Castello Road.
The road is under constant bombardment from exploding barrels and other artillery and, as a result, residents now refer to it as “death road.” Trucks make their way at nighttime with headlights off into the city in order to covertly bring in basic resources like milk. Supply’s that travel along this road include wheat for underground bakeries, soap, fuel and generators.
Dr. Ibrahim Alkhalil, head of the Aleppo health directorate for rebel areas, explained to the Inter Press Service that supplies are either short or non-existent. These include antibiotics, electricity, trained staff and water.
Furthermore the doctor explained that due to horrible road conditions, it is extremely difficult to maintain vehicles, therefore many people are stranded and die on the road as they are unable to reach the few medical centers left standing. Most medical facilities have to be mobile and confidential as Syrian forces often attack them.
A young man told IPS that he and his organization works to raise money from countries abroad in the amount of 50 dollars per month, which is then disbursed among the most needy widows and orphans in the area. However, a recent attack on the organization’s building, which killed a good friend and co-worker of the young man, resulted in half of the staff fleeing to other areas of the country while other staff are too afraid to come to work. Sandbags are now stacked in front of building windows for protection.
Because Aleppo is home to the largest rebel controlled area, many are worried that if Aleppo falls so will the Syrian revolution that began in March 2011.
The blockade of supply lines is not an uncommon strategy in times of conflict. However the blocking of Aleppo’s only supply road may prove disastrous to those suffering in impoverished conditions. In an already resource stressed area, the blocking of the only supply road may be the line between life and death for many who are already living in extreme poverty.
Aleppo is in need of foreign aid but the question remains, who will be able to deliver it if there are no supply routes?