WHO demands humanitarian access to Syria's East Ghouta

WHO demands humanitarian access to Syria's East Ghouta
2 min read
27 March, 2017
The World Health Organization on Monday demanded immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to Syria’s East Ghouta, where more than 300,000 people are besieged without medical facilities.
Over 300,000 people are besieged and under fire in East Ghouta [AFP]

The World Health Organization on Monday sounded the alarm over the deteriorating health situation in Syria’s East Ghouta, demanding immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to the area.

More than 300,000 people have been under regime-imposed sieged in East Ghouta since 2012, with the area outside Damascus routinely targeted by airstrikes and artillery fire. It has also been subjected to attacks involving chemical weapons.

“Time is running out for the people of East Ghouta. As health needs increase, available resources are being depleted day by day. Our main goal now is to provide access to lifesaving care for thousands of vulnerable men, women and children immediately,” said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO Representative in Syria.

“WHO and health partners have prepositioned additional supplies and are ready to deliver them as soon as access is granted.”

All 3 public hospitals and 17 public health care centres in East Ghouta are nonfunctioning and inaccessible to the population, the WHO said in a statement.

The number of children suffering from trauma injuries is alarmingly high, with 30 percent of all patients with war-related injuries being children under 15 years of age, added the UN health body.

Despite a December ceasefire deal brokered by Turkey, which backs rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and regime ally Russia, violence continues unabated on many fronts across Syria. 

In the past week rebel forces have launched a new offensive targeting the Syrian capital involving both fighters from Tahrir al-Sham – an opposition faction dominated by former al-Qaeda affiliate Fatah al-Sham – and the FSA. 

Earlier this week rebels reached the outskirts of Damascus' old city. Fighters involved in the offensive have launched raids from the east Ghouta rebel-stronghold of Jobar. In response the Syrian regime has stepped up air raids and artillery fire targeting the besieged area. 

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fueled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.