On 30 October 2017 in East Ghouta, rural Damascus, in the Syrian Arab Republic, a child is measured by a health professional with a Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) measuring tape to determine whether or not he or she is suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
AMMAN/HONG KONG, 31 October 2017 – UNICEF participated yesterday in a United Nations humanitarian assistance convoy to two towns in the besieged area of East Ghouta, rural Damascus. These towns are Kafr Batna and Saqba.
UNICEF sent six trucks of humanitarian supplies as part of this convoy. The UNICEF trucks included health supplies like oral rehydration solutions, medicines for children, vitamins, midwifery and pediatric kits. It also included hygiene kits, nutrition supplements and high energy biscuits.
Nearly 400,000 people remain trapped in East Ghouta which has been under siege since mid-2013. UNICEF estimates half are children. Humanitarian needs in this area continue to worsen. The UN and UNICEF were last able to access East Ghouta in September.
Extremely limited humanitarian access to the area in 2017 has caused the price of basic goods, including food, to soar. Livelihoods are seriously depleted, with continued displacement and insecurity exacerbating vulnerability. Inadequate access to safe water and basic hygiene items will likely result in prevalence of childhood diseases.
The deterioration of the humanitarian situation in East Ghouta is jeopardizing the health status of boys, girls and mothers. Fran Equiza, the UNICEF Representative in Syria, who participated in the convoy says: “Children and mothers are hit hardest by the dire living conditions in the besieged towns of East Ghouta”.
Since the beginning of 2017, UNICEF was only able to access East Ghouta six times. Last year, UNICEF was able to undertake 10 interagency convoys to the area.
While UNICEF welcomes this window of access, more humanitarian assistance should be allowed to reach children in need across Syria. UNICEF continues to call on all parties to the conflict for unconditional, safe and sustained access to all children, irrespective of their location in the country.
UNICEF is concerned over the increase in violence against civilians in East Ghouta. UNICEF reminds all parties to the conflict to protect children at all times during conflict. Civilian infrastructure including medical and education facilities must never come under attack.