Syria food prices skyrocket

Syria child
Candy in Syria is 100 times more expensive than it was before the war (Reuters file)

For children living in war-torn Syria, the simple pleasure of a piece of candy is a distant memory.

Food prices in the besieged city of Deir Ez Zor have skyrocketed, and it is also suffering from chronic water shortages.

UNICEF says the escalation of violence in the eastern city this week is threatening the lives of 93,000 civilians, including more than 40,000 children.

"We live near one of the frontlines. The most terrifying thing is when there's an airstrike then the other side shells back; we don't know where the attack will hit," a school teacher told UNICEF, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is difficult to maintain any semblance of normal life, with commodities becoming increasingly rare. What little is available at the city's markets costs five to 10 times more than it would in Syria's capital Damascus.

A 300g pack of dried spaghetti costs SYP1700 (NZ$4.53), compared to SYP300 (NZ$0.91) in Damascus.

Medicine like paracetamol is seven times more expensive than in Damascus, and fuel and diesel prices have also jumped, meaning ambulances are the only vehicles on the roads.

A 12-year-old boy pushes a tank of water to his house (Bassam Khabieh/UNICEF)

Even candy is 100 times more expensive than it used to be.

"Children can be distracted with a piece of candy, but one kilogram of candy now costs almost US$50 (NZ$68.61), compared to 50 cents before the war," the school teacher said.

Most families are surviving on rations of bread, beans, wheat and oil from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), but it's not enough.

"A loaf contains only seven pieces which is not enough for a family of more than four people. Families usually have to buy more from street vendors for higher the price," the teacher said.

A boy drinks water from a tank (Bassam Khadiyeh/UNICEF)

UNICEF says chronic water shortages are forcing families to take untreated water from the Euphrates River, exposing children to the risk of waterborne diseases.

The organisation is calling on all parties to the conflict in Syria to immediately lift all sieges and allow it unimpeded and unconditional access to children in Deir Ez Zor and in all 15 areas under siege across the country.