400,000 civilians living in the Eastern Ghouta enclave are suffering one of the worst current humanitarian disasters in the Syrian Civil War. According to the U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland, the civilians living in the area face “complete catastrophe” because aid deliveries are blocked and hundreds of people need urgent medical evacuation.
So far seven people have died because they were not evacuated and 29 more were at imminent risk including 18 children. The area east of Damascus has been almost completely sealed off since September as a result of a government imposed siege on the enclave which is currently held by opposition fighters. The government has closed tunnels that had been used by the opposition to smuggle in food.
On Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein said recent images of malnourished children were a “frightening indication of the plight of people in Eastern Ghouta, who are now facing a humanitarian emergency”. The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said 232 children were suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with two infants reported to have died in the past month. According to the agency, another 882 children were suffering from moderate acute malnutrition, while more than 1,500 were at risk of suffering.
Despite East Ghouta’s formal inclusion within an international ceasefire agreement, fighting has still been reported in the area. This has been the case in many areas where the “de-escalation zones” have been in place including Idlib and Hama.
However, on Monday (13th November), aid and supplies for 40,000 people were allowed into the towns of Kafr Batna and Saqba. According to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the convoy of 49 lorries was carrying 8,000 food parcels and a similar number of bags of flour, medicine, medical supplies, and other nutritional materials.
The latest rounds of peace-talks are underway in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana in the hope of finding a solution to the crisis.