More than 1,000 people are in need of immediate medical evacuation from besieged Eastern Ghouta in Syria, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday. "Attacks on the health sector have continued at an alarming level in the past year. The 67 verified attacks on health facilities, workers, and infrastructure recorded during the first two months of 2018 amount to more than 50 percent of verified attacks in all of 2017," WHO said in a statement yesterday.
"The suffering of the people of Syria must stop. We urge all parties to the conflict to end attacks on health, to provide access to all those in Syria who need health assistance and above all, to end this devastating conflict," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director general, said.
Ghebreyesus noted that critical medical supplies have also been routinely removed from U.N. convoys to hard-to-reach and besieged locations in Syria.
"Earlier this month, more than 70 percent of the health supplies intended to reach East Ghouta were removed by authorities and sent back to the WHO warehouse. The items removed are desperately needed to save lives and reduce suffering." He underlined that seven years of conflict have devastated Syria's healthcare system.
"More than half of the country's public hospitals and healthcare centers are closed or only partially functioning and more than 11.3 million people need health assistance, including three million living with injuries and disabilities."
The U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) also urged "all parties to the conflict to allow safe, unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access for the delivery of food and other life-saving assistance to those who are so desperately in need."
According to WFP, some 6.5 million people in Syria are food insecure and another four million people are at risk of becoming so.
On Feb. 24, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2401, which calls for a month-long ceasefire in Syria, especially Eastern Ghouta, to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid. Despite the fact that as many as 400,000 people live in the city with scarce medical facilities and food, the regime has continued attacks and blocked delivery of international aid. Even though the U.N. considers the siege and deprivation of water and food to be war crimes, all attempts to end the blockade have been unsuccessful. Russia, the main backer of the Assad regime along with Iran, ordered a humanitarian pause in an attempt to demonstrate its clout in the deadly civil war. The pause was set for five hours to create a corridor to allow civilians to exit the area. The Russian Defense Ministry said it would help injured civilians leave the town. Yet, the pause has been violated by the regime.
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