CHILDREN in Syria are eating fruit, nuts and leaves and drinking dirty water to survive as families find it increasingly hard to feed themselves, according to a new report.

Save the Children said the fighting and high inflation were severely limiting the ability of many families to put enough food on the table.

Parents cite lack of food as their second biggest source of stress, after the general lack of security, said the charity.

Before the crisis 10 million Syrians lived in rural areas, 80 per cent of them making a living from agriculture. The war has heavily affected the sector and Syria has had its worst harvest for nearly 30 years.

Many bakeries have been put out of action by the conflict, and children in some areas are facing malnutrition.

“We’ve never experienced a food shortage like this,” one mother told Save the Children.“We would feed the children anything we could find—leaves, nuts, fruits—just to fill up their bellies.”

Since fighting began in March 2011 more than 2 million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.

A combined report from the UN and Syrian government in June said at least 6.8 million Syrians, half of them children, require urgent humanitarian assistance.

By arrangement with the Guardian