Most Syrians now spend their days finding fuel to cook and heat their homes, and stand in long lines to buy rationed pita. Power shortages are constant, with some areas receiving only a few hours of electricity a day, barely enough for people to keep their cell phones charged.
Desperate women have started selling their hair to feed their families.
“I had to sell my hair or my body,” a mother of three said recently at a hair salon near Damascus, speaking on condition of anonymity, like other people interviewed for this article, for fear of arrest.
Her husband, a carpenter, was sick and had only sporadic employment, she said, and needed heating oil for the house and winter coats for her children.
With the $ 55 she got for her hair, which she will use to make wigs, she bought two gallons of heating oil, clothes for her children and a rotisserie chicken, the first her family had in three months.
She cried in shame for two days afterward.
The fall in the currency means that doctors now earn the equivalent of less than $ 50 a month. The head of the doctors union recently said that many were going abroad for work, to Sudan and Somalia, among the few countries that allow easy entry for Syrians, but none of which have a strong economy. Other professionals earn much less.
“People’s concern, more than anything else, is food and fuel,” said a musician from Damascus. “Everything is abnormally expensive and people are afraid to open their mouths.”
The causes are multiple and overlap: widespread damage and displacement of the war; extensive Western sanctions against the al-Assad government and its associates; a bank collapse in neighboring Lebanon, where wealthy Syrians kept their money; and lockdowns to combat the coronavirus.