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We are mad with hunger, says Homs priest stuck in Syria

Monday, 3 February 2014 - 12:33pm IST | Place: Aazaz (Northern Syria) | Agency: Daily Telegraph
A Dutch priest trapped in the siege of the Syrian city of Homs has told how residents cut off for more than a year are developing mental health problems that are leading to the breakdown of social order.

A Dutch priest trapped in the siege of the Syrian city of Homs has told how residents cut off for more than a year are developing mental health problems that are leading to the breakdown of social order.

Father Frans Van der Lugt, a 75-year-old Roman Catholic and the local leader in the besieged Old City in Homs, told of his community's battle for survival during two years of living in a district brutalised by war and without food. "Our city has become a lawless jungle," said Fr Van der Lugt. "We are trying our best to behave in a fraternal way so we don't turn on each other for the hunger."

Fr Van der Lugt spoke to The Daily Tele-graph by Skype after posting a video online in which he appealed to the outside world for help from a rebel-held district of Homs that has been sealed off by Syrian government troops.

For more than a year no food has been allowed in and no one is allowed out.

Efforts to negotiate access for humanitarian aid at last week's UN-brokered peace talks at Geneva failed. Fr Van der Lugt said food has run out and people are losing their minds from starvation.

The priest, who has lived in Syria since 1966, said the Old City used to be home to 60,000 Christians, with 10 churches in the besieged areas. "Now I find myself alone with only 66 other Christians," he said, adding that they have a close relationship with the Muslim residents who are also trapped in the siege.

"We are afraid that the international community has abandoned us. They look for their interests, this is politics, but they have to know that the Syrian people are suffering," he said.



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