With no access to vaccinations for their children, Syrians in the besieged Eastern Ghouta fear the worst.
Abu Nidal Abed, a 43-year-old fighter in the Free Syria Army (FSA), his wife and two children have been sleeping in a hastily constructed bomb shelter for months.
Located in the Saqba town in the Ghouta area of Damascus’ countryside, their home has been damaged by air strikes launched by the Syrian government throughout the five-year civil war.
“I spent 45 days building the bomb shelter to protect us from the rocket fire and air strikes,” he told Al Jazeera.
The Syrian conflict broke out as a largely unarmed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, but it was not long before it evolved into a full-on civil war.
The UN special envoy for Syria, Steffan de Mistura, estimated last week that more than 400,000 people have been killed throughout the fighting in Syria.
Much of the Ghouta region is under siege by government forces and pro-Assad armed groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The siege has made it difficult for residents to access humanitarian supplies, including medicine and vaccinations, resulting in a wave of illnesses.
Explaining that he had already lost one son in the civil war, Abed said he was motivated by fear for his children’s safety, hoping to protect them from the exposure to the Syrian government’s air strikes.
Abed’s son, 25-year-old Nidal, was killed while fighting with the FSA in the Damascus countryside in 2015.