UN aid convoy reaches besieged E Ghouta

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An aid convoy of nine trucks carrying food, health and other supplies for 7,200 people reached the besieged rebel-held Damascus enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday, the United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent said.

The convoy is the first since November 28 to enter Eastern Ghouta, where almost 400,000 civilians are under siege, and follows months of pleading by the United Nations for the Assad government to grant access and agree to a ceasefire.

“First @UN and @SYRedCrescent inter-agency convoy this year crossed conflict lines to #Nashabieh in #EastGhouta to deliver food, health and nutrition supplies for 7,200 people in the besieged enclave,” the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a tweet.

Jakob Kern, Syria country director for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), said that it had provided a month’s worth of food rations for more than 7,000 civilians.

“We need much more such convoys. Fighting has to stop to deliver much-needed aid to all civilians in need,” he said in a tweet.

Typically UN aid convoys to Syria’s hotspots are composed of many more trucks and supplies, and it was not immediately clear on what basis distribution would be made.

Last week was one of the bloodiest in the nearly seven-year-old conflict as Syrian government forces, who are backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded two of the last major rebel areas of Syria – Eastern Ghouta and the northwestern province of Idlib.

The relief items included some 1.8 tonnes of medical supplies from the World Health Organization (WHO), its representative in Syria Elizabeth Hoff told agencies.

These were enough to provide 10,000 treatments, including antibiotics, dialysis sessions, insulin, life-saving medicines, trauma and pneumonia kits and hospitals beds, she said.

Hoff said that there was no news regarding the more than 700 patients who await medical evacuation from eastern Ghouta, for which the UN health agency has been seeking government approval for months.

Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian adviser, told reporters on 1 February that aid agencies were unable to make deliveries to desperate Syrians for the past two months as President Bashar al-Assad’s government had withheld approval for convoys.

Insurgents were also creating obstacles, contributing to the worst situation since starvation in the government-besieged town of Madaya near Damascus in late 2015, he said.

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