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Aid convoy arrives in Ghouta as besieged residents starve

A heavily damaged street with buildings is seen after Assad Regime's forces strike over the de-conflict zone, Ein Tarma Town of Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 22 August, 2017 [Alaa Mohammad/Anadolu Agency]
A heavily damaged street with buildings is seen after the Assad Regime carried out airstrikes over the de-conflict zone, Ein Tarma Town of Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus, Syria on 22 August, 2017 [Alaa Mohammad/Anadolu Agency]

An aid convoy from the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent has arrived in Eastern Ghouta, bringing aid to 40,000 people for the first time since June 2016, Reuters reported yesterday.

The five year siege on the suburb of Damascus has pushed the 400,000 residents to breaking point, with almost 400 civilians starving to death in the past five years. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the majority of the victims were children.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Twitter that its staff had entered the towns of Kafra Batna and Saqba, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent confirmed that there were 49 trucks in the convoy.

A health worker in Saqba who was present when the convoy started to offload said that nine trucks of foodstuffs, including milk and peanut butter, and four trucks of medicines had arrived so far.

Last week, a picture of one month-old Sahar Dofdaa, who weighed less than two kilogrammes with her bones clearly visible beneath her skin, prompted fresh outrage at the humanitarian crisis in the region. She died shortly after the photo was taken. A further 1,200 children are suffering from severe malnutrition, and another 1,500 are at imminent risk.

On Friday, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein warned of the deteriorating situation in Ghouta, calling for the parties in the conflict to allow food and medicines into the relevant areas.

Read: 59% of Syria children in Lebanon out of school

Eastern Ghouta is one of four de-escalation zones established in May by Russia, Iran and Turkey in order to stem the bloodshed of Syria’s six-year civil war. However, the region is suffering from the tightened blockade after an offensive by the Syrian regime earlier this year cut underground smuggling routes that formerly allowed civilians access to food, fuel and medicine.

The besieged province is also subject to airstrikes from the Syrian regime, despite such attacks being expressly forbidden by the terms of the May agreement.

Since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011, more than half a million people are believed to have been killed, the vast majority by President Bashar Al-Assad’s government and allied forces. The regime has also used chemical weapons against civilians and prevented aid from reaching those affected on the ground. UN officials estimate that some 10 million people have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

Read: Syria rejects report blaming it for April sarin attack

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