Beyond the oil wells, Syrians rummage through rubbish in a desperate search for something to sell, repurpose – or eat.
A child sifts through a rubbish dump near an oil field in the countryside of al-Malikiya in northeast Syria.
On the dry plains outside the city of al-Malikiyah, in northeast Syria, a dozen people wrapped up against the cold rip open the black plastic bags, in a desperate search for something to sell, recycle – or even eat.
Across the road, an oil pump swings back and forth in this resource-rich region controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces. An armoured vehicle flying the American stars and stripes drives by.
Almost 10 years of war in Syria have ravaged the economy and sent the value of the Syrian pound plummeting. Food prices have tripled across the country since November 2019, the UN food assistance agency says.
In the Kurdish-held northeast, more than 60 percent of people suffered from food shortages in 2019, according to the World Food Programme.
“Because of the crisis and the price hikes, we’re struggling to get by,” said the mother, whose family was displaced from their village three years ago by fighting between Kurdish fighters and the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
The best days are when the truck brings in food from restaurants, she said. “Some of it is clean.” Other times, “we rummage through hospital waste despite the danger”, Umm Mustafa admitted.
“But we have to because there is no other option.”