Thu | Oct 18, 2018

UN begins aid delivery to rebel-held suburbs of Damascus

Published:Tuesday | March 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
This photo release by the Syrian Red Crescent, shows members of the Syrian Red Crescent distributing medicines for civilians in Douma, eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, Syria yesterday.

BEIRUT (AP):

A UN convoy carrying desperately needed food and medicine to besieged civilians entered the war-ravaged eastern suburbs of Damascus yesterday, but aid agencies said that Syrian authorities blocked the delivery of some of the health supplies, including trauma and surgical kits and insulin.

The shipment was the first to enter eastern Ghouta since Russia instituted what it called daily "humanitarian pauses" in the fighting a week ago. It also was the first time in weeks that any aid has been allowed in amid a crippling siege and a government assault that has killed hundreds of people in the past month.

Despite the truce, at least 50 civilians were killed yesterday in airstrikes and shelling, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. The activist-run Ghouta Media Center said that 24 people were killed in Hammouriyeh and another 10 in Harasta, both towns in eastern Ghouta.

The UN's humanitarian office said the 46-truck convoy of health and nutrition supplies, along with food for 27,500 people, entered Douma the largest town in eastern Ghouta around midday.

But it said that the Syrian government did not allow 70 per cent of the health supplies to be loaded and would not allow them to be replaced by other items.

The World Health Organization said that during an obligatory routine inspection by Syrian national authorities, many of the supplies in the WHO shipment were rejected, including all trauma, surgical, dialysis, and insulin supplies.

Marwa Awad, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Damascus who accompanied the convoy, also said that many of the life-saving health supplies were not allowed to be loaded.

"Consequently, three of the 46 trucks being sent to Duma today are close to empty," she told The Associated Press. "We hope to be able to take them inside on the next convoy on Thursday."