Yarmouk: Killing Hunger With Sleep

In the past my thoughts were built upon certain rules. I don’t know where I got them from or why I decided they were right. I see the world differently now. I have changed. I am much more logical.

As I write these words, it has been 604 days since the siege of the Yarmouk camp began. We haven’t had electricity for 700 days. The number of those who died of hunger has reached 171. We are hungry.

Even as I write these words, the numbers increase.

I was once a typical, energetic girl who was up every morning at seven. These days, I try to kill my hunger with sleep. I usually wake at noon. Under siege, you must wash your hands and face very well, because the amount of soot emitted by wood-burning stoves is enough to turn you totally black, masking with the sallow colour of your face.

My older brother says that it’s a good thing we have a wood-burning stove. By “wood”, he means the foundations of our house, which we have begun breaking apart in order to warm ourselves.

There is also industrial diesel fuel, which we use in a kerosene stove so that we can cook. That contributes to the black dust too, and you have to be an expert to light it, otherwise you might go up in flames yourself. If you do burn yourself, I’m sorry to tell you there’s no burn ointment, and if you think you might be able to go to hospital, you have to bring your own medicine and even your own medical staff.

Three years ago, the Yarmouk camp had so many doctors that every neighbourhood had about ten. We used to complain about the number of medical certificates hung up on electricity poles [as advertisements]. Today, there aren’t any specialised doctors any more. When you walk in the streets, you see many people with amputated hands and feet. Maybe one day we might hold a marathon for them to secure [funding for] psychological support, something every Syrian and Palestinian now needs.

I wake up late as usual and head for the market we call the Arab Souq. You might have to suppress your irritation as a small child follows you, wearing a cap ragged with age, his hands grimy with black dust, clutching at you as he asks for a piece of chocolate. This is a common occurrence, something you can see everywhere else in the world. But in the camp, the situation is very different. This small child doesn’t want any money, just some food and a bit of chocolate. It could contain no sugar, it could have no wrapper, and it might be smaller than a flea, but it would fill him up until the next day.

There is no longer anything in the camp to give you a sense of optimism, and if you see anyone smiling, you should understand it is only the effect of vertigo induced by nutritional deficiency and loss.

But if we lose hope in tomorrow, and if we believe that tomorrow itself is just a fantasy, we will have nothing but the awful here and now, and the hunger. Despair would be an insult and betrayal of all our sacrifice, of all our losses and martyrs.