Medical aid reaches Syrian town for first time in 18 months: WHO

Red Crescent staff run for cover after Syria's air force hit the town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, where they were distributing aid parcels along with a UN team on May 24, 2014. -- PHOTO:AFP
Red Crescent staff run for cover after Syria's air force hit the town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, where they were distributing aid parcels along with a UN team on May 24, 2014. -- PHOTO:AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - Desperately needed medicines and medical supplies have reached the besieged Syrian town of Douma for the first time in a year and a half, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

The United Nations' health agency said two of its trucks loaded with medical supplies had been part of an aid convoy that reached the rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta aroo

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treatments," the agency said, pointing out that surgeons in the town had been forced to perform operations "under extremely difficult circumstances".

The broader East Ghouta area in rural Damascus governorate has only seven functioning hospitals for a population of one million, it said.

"Across Rural Damascus governorate as a whole, there is only one operational public hospital for every 567 200 people," WHO said.

A UN Security Council resolution was passed in February demanding aid access to people in need across Syria.

Rights groups and the UN have both said aid was still not reaching millions of people in need, despite the resolution.

Syrian expats meanwhile streamed to their embassies around the world Wednesday to vote in advance of a controversial presidential election on June 3.

President Bashar al-Assad, facing two little-known challengers, is widely expected to clinch a third seven-year term, despite Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 160,000 people.