Aid convoy enters rebel-held area near Syrian capital

United Nations aid chief Stephen O'Brien urged parties to the Syrian conflict to ensure full and unimpended humanitarian access.
United Nations aid chief Stephen O'Brien urged parties to the Syrian conflict to ensure full and unimpended humanitarian access. PHOTO: AFP
Red Crescent members unload aid boxes in the rebel held besieged city of Douma, a suburb of Damascus
Red Crescent members unload aid boxes in the rebel held besieged city of Douma, a suburb of Damascus PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - A convoy carrying medical aid on Saturday (Feb 13) entered the besieged rebel-controlled Douma area, a flashpoint near the Syrian capital, the Red Crescent said. The aid consists of medicines and also milk for children, said Syrian Red Crescent director of operations, Hazem Bakla, quoted by state news agency SANA.

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed the aid delivery to Douma in the Eastern Ghouta, a rebel stronghold east of Damascus besieged since 2013. According to UN figures, some 486,700 people in Syria currently live in areas besieged by either government or rebel forces. Scores are reported to have died of malnutrition or a lack of medical treatment.

On Friday, the world body said it hoped to deliver aid to people in besieged Syrian cities "without delay", after world powers agreed a plan to cease hostilities in the war-wracked country.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, Stephen O'Brien, on Friday (Feb 12) urged parties to the Syrian conflict to "ensure full, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access, including to besieged and hard-to-reach areas, in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law".

"The people of Syria - in Aleppo, Madaya, Foah and Kefraya, Deir ez-Zor and elsewhere - need an end to the brutal violence and bombing, the sieges, denial of free movement, food and medical care," said Mr o'Brien. "The United Nations and partners need safe, sustained access for humanitarian workers throughout the country. We remain committed and ready to deliver aid and protection for civilians in desperate need, whoever and wherever they are."

The UN, he said, would need to see meaningful action on the ground, so that Syrians and their neighbours can start to rebuild their lives and their country. The UN has said that only around a dozen of 116 access requests to reach people in need have been granted by the Syrian authorities.