UN calls for urgent evacuation of 137 sick Syrian children
The United Nations children's agency said yesterday that 137 children stranded in a rebel-held suburb near the Syrian capital require immediate evacuation amid a crippling siege in which five have reportedly died from a lack of medical care.
The Eastern Ghouta suburb, home to 400,000 residents, has been besieged since 2013 and humanitarian conditions there have deteriorated sharply amid violence that intensified since November 14. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 202 people, including 47 children, have been killed since.
The area, the last remaining rebel-held pocket near the capital Damascus, is technically part of a "de-escalation zone" brokered by Russia earlier this year. Ceasefires brokered by Russia have largely held elsewhere in Syria, but there has been little progress toward a political solution to the conflict that has claimed nearly 400,000 lives since it began in 2011.
Syrian opposition and government delegates are currently in Geneva for a new round of UN-sponsored talks after a short break. The government delegation has protested the opposition's insistence on the absence of President Bashar Assad from any future transition period.
BAD HEALTH SITUATION
After a few days' absence, the government delegation returned to Geneva Sunday for talks which are due to resume today.
In its statement yesterday, UNICEF said its aid workers described seeing one of the worst health situations since the conflict began in 2011 during a rare international aid convoy to a neighbourhood in the Eastern Ghouta district at the end of November.
UNICEF says 137 children, aged between seven-months to 17 years, require immediate evacuation for conditions that include kidney failure, severe malnutrition, and conflict wounds.