Just a couple of days after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hugged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, thanking him for "saving" Syria, reports have emerged that Syrians have started "eating trash" to survive in a city under attack from Assad's forces.
At least four people have died from hunger in the besieged town Douma, one of the areas hardest hit towns by the siege of Eastern Ghouta, the United Nations World Food Program stated in a recent report.
The death toll includes a child who took his own life due to lack of food.
Armed forces loyal to Assad have taken control of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta since 2012 and Douma has not received a single food aid convoy since August.
Approximately 174,500 people in the embattled zone have been forced to adopt emergency "coping strategies" for over three months.
"This includes consuming expired food, animal fodder and refuse, spending days without eating, begging and engaging in high risk activities to get food," the WFP added. "Moreover, many hunger-induced fainting episodes have been reported among school children and teachers."
Some people have even adopted an alternative day strategy, according to which children can eat on certain days.
"My daughter cries every time I lock her door cause she knows today is not her turn and will sleep with an empty stomach,” a woman was quoted as saying in the WFP report.
In October, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF estimated more than 1,100 children are suffering from acute malnutrition in Eastern Ghouta. The same month, a haunting image of an emaciated baby, Sahar Dofdaa, from the besieged region went viral. She only lived for 34 days due to lack of supply of food and other medical aid.
Meanwhile, Assad has waged a bloody civil war for six years, killing at least 465,000 of his own people, completely destroying once-bustling cities like Aleppo, displacing millions of civilians, and triggering the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Yet, the Syrian leader thanked Putin, his closest ally, as Russia prepared to host the leaders of Iran and Turkey for high-level talks about ending the Syrian war.
Is peace even possible while hundreds of people starve under the Assad regime?