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Digging for survival: Inside Eastern Ghouta's underground shelters Open in fullscreen

Qusay Noor

Digging for survival: Inside Eastern Ghouta's underground shelters

Those without access to basement shelters have been forced to dig their own [Qusay Noor]

Date of publication: 26 February, 2018

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Photoblog: Exclusive photos show how Syrians in Eastern Ghouta have been forced into underground shelters in order to survive Assad's campaign of death and destruction above ground.
As bombs continue to rain down on Eastern Ghouta, the last remaining opposition-held enclave near the Syrian capital, its residents have been forced to dig their way underground as the only means of protection from the relentless airstrikes.

Qusay Noor's photos provide a small glimpse into the suffering of the 380,000 people still trapped in the enclave - including many women, children and elderly people - forced to live in squalid conditions without basic necessities, ventilation, or access to healthcare.

The Russian-backed bombing and shelling campaign has claimed more than 500 lives in the past week, with thousands more injured, while hospitals, a main target of the strikes, crumble under both bombs and the sheer number of people needing urgent care.

The UN-imposed ceasefire was delayed from Thursday 22 February to Saturday 24 February, in which time a further 180 people were killed. Among them were 26 women and 42 children. 
[Qusay Noor]
Disregarding the ceasefire, the Syrian regime continued to carry out airstrikes on Sunday and Assad-aligned militias reportedly attempted to storm the enclave.

[Qusay Noor]
As thousands of Eastern Ghouta's residents lose their homes to the bombings, the only means of survival is to dig shelters underground.

[Qusay Noor]
The makeshift shelters have subsequently filled up with men, women and children hoping to be spared from Assad's brutal campaign of bombing and shelling.

[Qusay Noor]
Eastern Ghouta has been bombarded with dozens of airstrikes per day, making the siege one of the most dangerous in the conflict's seven-year history.
[Qusay Noor]

Thousands of Eastern Ghouta's residents are thought to be living in a makeshift network of tunnels and trench-like channels underneath the town.

[Qusay Noor]
Thousands of children are living in Eastern Ghouta's basements, deprived of sunlight, ventilation and other basic necessities.

[Qusay Noor]
There is inadequate access to healthcare for the thousands injured by the relentless bombing and shelling, which has also targeted key hospitals and healthcare facilities.

[Qusay Noor]
It is also thought that Assad has been carrying out chemical attacks against the people of Eastern Ghouta, with one child reportedly killed from chlorine exposure on Monday.
[Qusay Noor]
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 1,463 children have been killed by the fighting in Eastern Ghouta since the beginning of the conflict in 2011.

[Qusay Noor]
The siege has continued into Monday - despite the UN Security Council's meeting on Sunday, and the Kuwaiti-Swedish demand for ceasefire accross Syria.
[Qusay Noor]
A ceasefire is desperately needed in order for humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas that have run short of essentials such as food and medicines.
[Qusay Noor]
A blockade has been imposed on Eastern Ghouta for the past five weeks, with families and hospitals out of food, medical and fuel supplies.
[Qusay Noor]
As Eastern Ghouta's residents stay hopeful for a lasting ceasefire agreement, families struggle to maintain a semblance of normality amid the thousands forced underground.

Qusay Noor is a journalist and photographer from Eastern Ghouta in Syria.

Follow him on Twitter: @QUSAY_NOOR_

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