Nightly News   |  December 20, 2013

Families struggle in Syrian suburbs under siege

An estimated 250,000 civilians are going hungry on both sides of the civil war that is tearing apart Syria. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in syria we have been reminded of the horrors of a nearly 3-year-old civil war with. chemical weapons , barrel bombs, a growing refugee crisis. tonight our correspondent in damascus tells us there is another deadly consequence of the war -- starvation. we should tell you it's hard to watch. [ screaming ]

>> reporter: starving children, images from the suburbs of damascus under siege, sending a desperate message. they are hungry for any meal. thirsty for clean water . in this neighborhood, 11 women and children reportedly died of hunger in one month. this activist lives here.

>> this is one of the main streets . the assad shelling and bombardment didn't leave anything. we have over 8,000 civilians left living.

>> reporter: in another suburb where hundreds died in a chemical attack last august, people are cut off and face hunger so bad they use rotten seeds to make bread.

>> the assad regime is using starvation as a weapon of war. this is something much, much worse than sarin and using chemical weapons .

>> reporter: this mother says there is not enough food for her child. no sugar, no rice, nothing. an estimated quarter million of civilians are going hungry on both sides. communities in northern syria have been cut off by armed rebels.

>> trying to persuade the government and the opposition groups to allows to go where the needs are. so far we have not been able to.

>> reporter: they are desperate for bread. just miles away we saw bakeries filled with bread. markets full of fresh produce. controlled by president assad in this part of damascus , families are struggling. everything is more expensive. but at least they have food. in the suburbs under siege, people make the most of the little they have using a bike to recharge batteries, relying on firewood for heat. as the fighting drags on, leaving the innocent trapped, hungry, just trying to survive. keir simmons , nbc news, damascus .