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Syrians forced to eat grass; aid worker says deprivation worst he’s ever seen

February 11th, 2014
03:25 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

A World Food Programme aid director on the ground in Syria described to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday the desperate situation of civilians in war-ravaged Homs – something he said he had “never seen” before in his career.

“Nobody is able to actually feed themselves, feed their children, feed their families, with anything but the weed, the grass that they can pick on the side of the curb and what little that they can eke out from what they’ve saved over time,” Matthew Hollingworth, Syria director for the World Food Programme, said on the phone from Homs.

“They’re living in tunnels, they’re living in basements of apartment buildings which are otherwise destroyed, basements of shopping centers.”

“They are barely, and they have been barely, existing,” he said. “I’ve never seen levels of deprivation such as this.”

The United Nations is taking advantage of a rare, and very shaky ceasefire to deliver aid to civilians in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Homs.

There were rumors on Tuesday that aid had been suspended, but Hollingworth said that it had merely been paused so that aid workers could regroup and plan for the following day.

“So far we’ve managed to get enough food and medical assistance into old Homs for around 1,500 people for one month,” he said. “We’re going back tomorrow.”

The UN is assisting civilians who wish to flee Homs, one of the hardest-hit cities in the Syrian war.

“Nobody is living a normal life today,” he said.

He and his team spent eight hours in Homs’ center, the old city, and he said that there is “not a single building left in the old city of Homs which as a structure hasn’t been affected.”

Some civilians, who have already withstood nearly three years of war, are refusing to leave, he said.

“There are people who are so attached to their ancestral homes, to what they do have inside, they just don’t want to go. And they’re in desperate need of our assistance.”

There is some fear that once many families, women, and children escape the city that the Syrian government will feel like it has more leeway to bomb what is left of Homs with impunity.

“Sadly I don’t think there are any guarantees in that sense,” Holingworth said.

Now that this mission has proven how many people have been surviving in Homs all this time and that so many people have been willing to come out of hiding, Hollingworth expressed hope that the mission could be “replicated” elsewhere.

“We’re looking at the beginning of something that could be replicated elsewhere in Syria; we’re looking at something that actually could be replicated to bring peace to normal people’s lives.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. professor_katsmanS300lover

    But before 2011 there was no such problem. Guess why? :) Good job, Saudi and jihad tourists. Hope you get to eat some grass too in the near future.

    February 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Reply
    • Justice786

      It is actually not true to say that Syria was OK before 2011 The father of Bashad wiped out the City of Hama for example in 1982. The Hama massacre occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian Arab Army and the Defense Companies, under the orders of the country's then-president, Hafez al-Assad, besieged the town of Hama for 27 days in order to quell an uprising against al-Assad's government.[1][2] The massacre was carried out by the Syrian Army supposedly under commanding General Rifaat al-Assad, President Assad's younger brother massacring 40,000 civilians according to the Syrian Human Rights Committee). Decades of repression, torture and killings have marked the reign of the Assad family long before 2011–as indicated by many Human Rights Organization, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN itself. Who has used chemical weapons, barrel bombs, missiles, tanks, aircraft bombing, shelling, and torture (of almost 11,000 who died as a result)? Bashar Al Assad is a murderous dictator as are all members of his family and those who support him, and they will have to account for their crimes against humanity in front of the ICC.

      February 11, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Reply
    • notus

      People eating grass should thank the opposition and their funders in the west and east.They thought toppling a legitimate government was a 1 day job. Now eat grass some more and understand what happens to traitors who used outside support to kill their own people on thier own land.

      February 11, 2014 at 11:43 pm | Reply
      • Ordinary Syrian

        Thank you notus. The majority of the Syrian People Support Bashar al Assad and his Government. The West just does not accept that and continue to Support the Jihadists but we cannot and will not let those beheading radical Monsters take over our Nation. Only one Country is benefitting from the Syrian crisis, the Nation that is officially at war with Syria: Israel.

        February 12, 2014 at 7:52 am |
      • Syrian

        syrians are subjected to the most barbaric regime.
        we suffered from Assad and his family along with iron fist regime who built loyalty based on ethnicity and corruption. if you have benefited from the regime should not make betray your poeple

        February 13, 2014 at 8:15 am |
    • Tony

      Iran is assisting key Al-Qaeda figures to transfer Sunni fighters into Syria, the Obama administration charged Thursday.

      February 12, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • un lieing S O Bs

      UN liars trying to get more free food aid to terrorists, grass? it isnt HALAL so hes a liar!

      February 13, 2014 at 10:15 am | Reply
      • AHABTHEARAB

        Grass does not interfere with dietary laws..they have been snacking on it for thousands of years

        February 13, 2014 at 11:06 am |
    • un lieing S O Bs

      grass? that LIAR. no grass grows there its either concrete jungle or desert, lieing terrorist paid by the un, THE F U King drones better target this lieing tgerrorist UN spokesman

      February 13, 2014 at 10:20 am | Reply
  2. Knicschamp

    Why? coz Obama, Kerry, Saudi decided to fund the terrorist to rebel against Assad why did you not include that in your Liberal reporting

    February 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Reply
    • Charles Maduka

      The civilians are afraid of the western backed rebels who have invaded their homes in Homs and forced them to eat grass as you pointed out. Say it as it really is, the civilians are happy to go to the govt side. Blame the rebels and their backers who thought the 'Regime Change' game was going to be a matter of days in 2011.

      February 12, 2014 at 4:24 am | Reply
      • International law!!!!! international law is broken by the West

        very clear, you can see that the UN is not able to help these people. For these masses of people standing only few Djips for disposal. This is specially made ​​to Tragedie to make matters worse dan and the Assad government to blame. The exterior of the opposition and the West provotieren these states and thus break the international law on the sovereignty of individual states.
        CNN propagandized against the will of civilians and exploiting the people for beautiful picture of the west.

        February 12, 2014 at 10:24 am |
    • Western

      Let's blame everyone else and especially the West.
      It even rhymes...

      February 12, 2014 at 7:20 am | Reply
      • un lieing S O Bs

        grass isnt HALAL so this UN spokesf u k is another terrorist trying to get more free food to terrorists

        February 13, 2014 at 10:14 am |
    • Relictus

      I am a liberal and I do not support the rebels.

      February 12, 2014 at 9:14 am | Reply
  3. Justice786

    Sooner or later, the Assad family and all those who committed crimes against humanity in Syria will be called to account either in from of the United Nations International Court of Justice. They will have to answer for their crimes. Those from Hizbollah and Iran who are assisting in terrorizing and exterminating people will have to face the law of man and of God. No tyrant or dictator or terrorist lives for ever: ask Hitler, Saddam, Osama, Gaddafi, Mao, Stalin, etc. They are all gone now and are pushing daisies.

    February 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • Henri

      The last two died of old age. As I suspect Assad will before he ever gets near an ICC hearing. And Syria isn't even a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, so that's a slight impediment to them prosecuting Assad for anything.

      February 12, 2014 at 4:07 am | Reply
    • Neill

      Does this list include George Bush and Dick Cheney who illegally invaded Iraq and left over 1 million people dead? Or how about Obama for arming Al-Qaeda in Syria?

      February 12, 2014 at 5:54 am | Reply
      • dapper98

        stupid imbecile idiot

        February 12, 2014 at 8:52 am |
  4. mjschriner

    Should smoke the grass instead

    February 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  5. Anis

    Shame on humanity to leave one dictator do this to people of Syria.

    February 11, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • Brian from Chicago

      I agree with your sentiment, but serious action really needed to be taken a long time ago. Now it's a quagmire for which there doesn't appear to be any way of creating lasting peace.

      Or al-Assad could have let his people have just some moderate degree of democratic reforms. That would have solved everything without a single bullet being fired.

      February 12, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  6. hrc77

    Very clever CNN not explaining the the civilians have to eat grass because they are HOSTAGE of Obama and Kerry Alqaeda moderates.. The Syrian ARmy have plenty of food in the refugees camps inside the country and outside too.. Civilians only suffering because the Terrorist use them as human shields and attack UN convoy trying to feed them.. The Syrian army have a siege on the zone ,so the terrorist can't move to another place.. The Rebels that Refuse to drop their weapons ,refuse civilians to leave their controlled zones.. this is the same issue in other parts of Syria they control.. THe Moderates taking hostage civilians ,and CNN not a single word of the Alqaeda groups taking civilians hostages.

    February 12, 2014 at 12:02 am | Reply
    • Siroos

      Lets say you're right, the terrorists are taking hostage, and what are you doing? stopping food and medicine for the hostages!?
      This has nothing to do with hostage or terrorist, this is about the shiite mullah trying to dominate the middle east by what ever means, this is about the left overs of the Soviet regime trying to hold on to the last frontier.
      And you can tell them from me If they think they can bomb people into submission, they you need to get their head checked by a jumbo jet

      February 12, 2014 at 2:51 am | Reply
      • Kos Sher

        This has nothing to do with hostage or terrorist? Sorry, the real world is not compatible with your opinion.

        February 12, 2014 at 3:51 am |
  7. ashok

    The international community should have done more to help the brave Syrian people. Russia's role in the unfolding human tragedy is noteworthy.

    February 12, 2014 at 3:20 am | Reply
  8. lewtwo

    President Assad will be remembered as the muslim equivalent of Nero. At least Nero could play the fiddle.

    February 12, 2014 at 8:21 am | Reply
    • dapper98

      Fiddle was Albert Einstein. Nero played with matches.

      February 12, 2014 at 8:53 am | Reply
      • Liz

        He's referring to the common saying: "Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned" ( it would have been a lyre if it happened)

        February 13, 2014 at 5:33 am |
  9. Abednawi666

    If the AQ 'rebels' are reduced to "eating grass", they will have less energy to go out beheading captrives. It is not all bad news then.

    February 12, 2014 at 9:40 am | Reply
    • un lieing S O Bs

      exactly, and the UN spokesf u k is obviously another terrorist trying to B S us all, grass isnt halal so wont be eaten that liar needs to be put on trial as a war crimes supporter, beheading people is a war crime

      February 13, 2014 at 10:18 am | Reply
  10. Chris

    Not all Americans support what our government is doing in Syria. There are so many videos of war crimes committed by USA/Turkey funded FSA aligned rebels that anyone can easily find on google. They are stupid enough to film themselves shooting and beheading suspected "collaborators". They've fired artillery indiscriminately into civilian areas. Suicide bombing and IEDS are common videos to see. There are videos of Syrian Government war crimes also, like the unguided barrel bombs and abuse of prisoners. It's all very sad.

    February 12, 2014 at 9:45 am | Reply
  11. Brian from Chicago

    I just read that the majority of Syrians support al-Assad. I suppose the former majority are mostly dead or displaced.

    February 12, 2014 at 11:34 am | Reply
  12. Doug

    Hello OXFAM, Helloooooo anyone there??? OXFAM, anyone care?????

    Oh wait, they're busy with that Soda Stream issue. But Syrians subjected to muslim on muslim violence and death, that's not important. Syrians starving and eating grass, who cares. But that Soda Stream, now that's a real issue.

    Great job OXFAM!!

    February 12, 2014 at 11:37 am | Reply
  13. meifumado

    No reports on the cannibalism?

    February 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  14. Brian from Chicago

    Liberalism didn't cause this. al-Assad chose genocide over democracy, and only after he made that commitment did al Qaeda gain a foothold. All of this senseless killing could have been avoided if this man had a conscience for a day.

    I see some posters claiming that the majority of Syrians support al-Assad. And that might actually be true, now that so many native Syrians have been killed or displaced.

    The sick irony is that once this genocide is complete, al-Assad will less to fear from democracy than ever, because no one left will dare to oppose him in any way.

    February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • prayforjustice

      Same old story about ASSAD IN hama,this is a new conflict with INTRUDERS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES QATAR.SAUDI TURKEY EUROPE AND AMERICA.ASSAD has the RIGHT TO DEFEND SYRIA AND ITS PEOPLE.KILL ALL

      February 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Reply
      • Brian from Chicago

        Did you even read the first sentence I wrote before you reached for "caps-lock"?

        February 12, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
  15. Rick Wired

    When humans eat grass, it is called sallad. With a bit if your favorite dressing, I bet most grass would be just fine to eat.

    February 12, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Reply
    • Brian from Chicago

      If that malnourished infant survives and grows to become an adult, go tell him that joke to his face.

      February 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply
      • Rick Wired

        It wasn't a joke. What do you think chives, lemon grass, etc. are if not various kinds of grass?

        February 13, 2014 at 6:04 am |
  16. Africa

    Can some body help me........what is really wrong with leaders of third World countries that ,the face it very difficult to hand Power?have they beeenn told that there´s no live after rollx?historically there´s no development without change of Power.so for these reasons Assad should step down since 75% of syrians dont want him .period

    February 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  17. ilham shebani

    This is tragic, sad and urgently needed ... Opposition have failed Syrians.. the world community have failed Syrians. Another Holocaust is taking place right before our eyes.

    February 12, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • Tigerflower

      So what would you have those of us living in the west do about it? Every single last fighter in your benighted nation claims to be in the right. My country is vilified no matter who we support. On a personal level many here are struggling just to feed our own families and certainly don't have the energy or desire to take to the streets to scream for support of whatever side of the war you happen to favor.

      February 13, 2014 at 3:50 am | Reply
      • Waiting for a Candidate

        Amen to that. Who knows who is in the right, I have no clue.

        February 13, 2014 at 10:24 am |
  18. educate yourself

    Tony, you realize that claim is ludicrous. Sunni Al-Qaeda sees Shia Iran as infidels and probably dislikes Iran more than they dislike the West. There's no way they would ever help each other out and to claim otherwise without any evidence is silly.

    February 12, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  19. Sandra Roiding

    Assad regime is committing genocide against the Syrian people. Aid agencies have warned that sickening pictures of tortured corpses – allegedly victims of 'systematic killing' in Syrian jails – are just the tip of the iceberg.
    There are 55,000 photos which lawyers say are evidence of extreme torture; the shocking images, smuggled out of the country by a military police photographer, were described as 'clear evidence' of crimes against humanity committed by Assad regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization supported by Iranian regime.

    February 12, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  20. Roland Valdez

    Bashar al-Assad created the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and have infiltrated ISIS. Asaad regime pays ISIS and controls its run. There’s allot of evidences out there to back these facts. ISIS, which is a creation of Asaad and Iranian regimes, are of Assad’s tools of oppression, alongside the Syrian Arab Army, the National Defense Forces, the “shabiha”, the security forces and so on, plus Hezbollah and all the other foreign terrorist organizations fighting on behalf of (Bashar al Assad) to oppress the Syrian people and continue the ongoing genocide against them.

    February 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  21. Abbas Ali Mahdi

    In today’s Syria the true hand of Iran is behind Al-Qaeda. Through its ISIS subsidiary, Al-Qaeda is trying to sabotage the Syrian revolution. They assassinated its leaders and attacked their areas. The ISIS won the Syrian war where Assad’s forces and Hezbollah’s militias, and Iraq’s Al-Haqq brigades failed.
    Iran and Assad regime are behind all foreign fighters and terrorists in Syrian, whether ISIS or Hezbollah. The Syrian revolution is a democratic and just revolution for suppressed people for over 50 by Assad family and Iranian invaders.

    February 12, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  22. devon

    Go on youtube and check out videos on both sides. Don't think either side is the good guy. The videos you will witness is absolutely disgusting. People shooting each other in the face, back of the head, cutting heads off in front of children, torturing people, cutting people into pieces. shall I go on? Both sides are doing this kind of stuff. Keep our country out of it. Keep Obama's hands out of this war. It's evil against evil.

    February 13, 2014 at 1:25 am | Reply
    • Allen

      evil against evil doesn't destroy evil, it just grows it exponentially. It's like evil^evil. It's not evil-evil.

      February 13, 2014 at 2:02 am | Reply
      • Tigerflower

        Which is pretty much why most of us in the west are sick of seeing our countries send money we need desperately here at home to countries willing to take up arms and slaughter each other with the help of our scares resources. Did none of the posters here screaming for the US to send support to their favorite Syrian faction see the national debt ceiling that was just approved here? We can no longer afford to fund your hatred.

        February 13, 2014 at 4:19 am |
  23. Chris

    I guess supporting Al Qaeda inusrgents fighting against American troops in Iraq wasn't such a good idea after all, was it Assad? Payback is a b****.

    February 13, 2014 at 3:28 am | Reply
  24. Majorbatguano

    When a leader of a nation uses starvation as a weapon against his own people, it's time for that leader to be removed by whatever means available by the international community. Period.

    February 13, 2014 at 3:30 am | Reply
    • Tigerflower

      By the international community? Most of us where I live are just struggling to find and keep work the last few years. We can barely take care of ourselves let alone keep track of all your factions and who is right and who is wrong. There comes a time, and maybe it's now, that you're going to have to find a way to live together or die together on your own. Don't want war? Lay down the weapons, stop fighting and pray that your kids are allowed to live. Personally I don't have any other answers for you. My country is long past being able to make the rest of the world safe and happy.

      February 13, 2014 at 4:08 am | Reply
      • jcvet33

        As I just paid another govt. fee for my business that went up 100% I'm crying my eyes out for these people. Not.

        February 13, 2014 at 10:32 am |
    • Giblet

      So when are you signing up to join the military?

      February 13, 2014 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Waiting for a Candidate

      Go for it major. Take up your arms. Yeah that's what I thought.

      February 13, 2014 at 10:54 am | Reply
  25. KieranH

    Aren't they all vegetarian/vegan anyhow....

    February 13, 2014 at 8:26 am | Reply
  26. Frank

    Maybe they can pray to that WARLORD BUTCHER they call Allah, and see if he will give them some food.

    February 13, 2014 at 9:18 am | Reply
  27. Patrish

    This is so sad. The terror these people must live in. One man (and his pawns) cause this much misery. No decent country can not want to help these people no matter what you think of the their culture – the are not all to blame. Caring is what makes us human. Lose that and you have lost everything.

    February 13, 2014 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Tigerflower

      Cut the cr@p please. No dictator ever waged a war without help. It takes two to tango. I absolutely care. I care about my nephew who just had to quit school because his financial aid was cut back due to government cuts. I care about his wife who's struggling to find a second job so they both can eat and pay rent. I care that there have been 3 attempted break-ins at my home this year because the local law enforcement can't afford to clear out the neighborhood drug houses. I care that I can't afford new glasses because my medical coverage doesn't cover optical care. Am I here begging your country for money to help solve my problems? NO. It's an old adage but true. Charity begins at home. It's time the warring factions in Syria learned this and did something to STOP their war instead of trying to WIN it. Quit looking to the rest of the world to fix what you broke.

      February 13, 2014 at 10:59 am | Reply
  28. jcvet33

    As I just paid another govt. fee for my business that went up 100% I'm crying my eyes out for these animals. Not.

    February 13, 2014 at 10:33 am | Reply
  29. herbsuperb

    The people of Vicksburg and Atlanta suffered no less. Civil wars do not last forever. One side will gain the upper hand. I just hope it is enough to achieve a decisive and lasting victory. I truly hope that in the end cooler heads prevail. If there are not leaders of the same caliber as Grant, Sherman, Lincoln and Lee on both sides of this conflict, the victors will no doubt barbarically slaughter the defeated after the war is over. The bad blood that will create, will mean unending conflict, hatred, murder and terrorism for the people of Syria. Americans engaged in a bloody and horrific civil war for four years. War was deliberatly made on civilians and massive armies bludgeoned eachother in battle after battle seemingly without end. At the end of it all, after a decisive and firm end to the carnage, cooler heads prevailed and America came out stronger, more united, and with a greater sense of nationalism and a sort of humbed pride than it ever had before. I really hope the Syrians have some of the same grit and same decency that made that possible. The end of the American Civil War is truly one of the most fascinating moments in world history.

    February 13, 2014 at 10:42 am | Reply
  30. Cant Stop Rockets

    Looks like it takes two to fight, Both the Assad's and the rebels are the problem, But all we really need to look at is who is officially in charge to get an accurate measure. It seems to me that even if the west was instigating unrest and rebellion as Syria reports. That if the Syrian Government was even moderately decent and proactive, that problem would've corrected itself quite sometime ago. I'd say that they need to address the situation with a softer hand instead of the hardline intolerance that prevails. Their disdain of dissent and poor decision making has only resulted in the destruction, bloodshed, and increasing resistance to their authority that is going to continue to undermine their effort to stay in power. It doesn't seem to me that they will be able to maintain their positions of power as this continues. If they think they can, They have lost touch with reality. You cannot do the things that are being done and remain as a recognized, legitimate governmental authority on the world stage. Its just to bad you love your country so much, that you want to take it down with you. Now that's some real national pride at work.

    February 13, 2014 at 10:45 am | Reply
  31. cboy619

    After watching a group of Syrian boys kick a donkey off a cliff on youtube, I don't really care much about Syria.

    February 13, 2014 at 10:47 am | Reply
  32. Jerry Okamura

    Are there no people anywhere in the world, where there is no armed conflict, where the people are eating grass to survive?

    February 13, 2014 at 11:19 am | Reply
  33. Dan60093

    Amanpour and CNN are trying to provoke American to get involved in Syria so they can start reporting how many Syrian's are dying as a result of us being there.

    February 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  34. Thelightofpeace

    There are no good guys in this war. Both sides fighting have an agenda and their agendas will only bring more of the same suffering that they are now experiencing.

    February 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Reply

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