Middle East

Medical aid unable to enter Syrian rebel-held Aleppo: WHO

Two rebel fighters take shelter behind a barricade as others in their group run to avoid sniper fire on the al-Breij frontline, after what they said was an advance by them in the Manasher al-Hajr area where the forces of Syria's President Bashar Assad were stationed, in Aleppo January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Hosam Katan

BEIRUT: The World Health Organization (WHO) has been unable to get a desperately needed medical aid convoy through to civilians in the rebel-held part of Aleppo despite a government promise last month to give it access.

"Delays often happen due to operational and/or security reasons but details are not to be shared," WHO spokesman Tarik Jaarevi said in an email Tuesday.

In a statement this week, the WHO said 240,000 medical treatments from it and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were being held in a warehouse in the government-held part of the city, Syria's biggest, "for further distribution to the targeted areas, which will begin shortly."

On Dec. 22, the WHO said it had received a promise to be allowed to deliver aid to rebel-held parts of Aleppo, which it planned to transport within the week, and also to the besieged districts of Moadamieh, in Damascus, and Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital.

The non-governmental Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, made up of Syrian doctors, says cholera, typhoid, scabies and tuberculosis are spreading among the 360,000 people in rebel-held Aleppo for lack of treatments or vaccines. The area is cut off on three sides by the Syrian army.

All sides in Syria's three-year civil war have prevented medical supplies crossing front lines, fearing they could be used to help wounded enemy fighters.

The WHO says surgical supplies such as syringes and bandages have previously been removed from convoys at checkpoints run by the security forces.

Syrian officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday or Thursday. Damascus denies blocking aid.

Jaarevi said vaccines and syringes had been delivered to Eastern Ghouta, the first "complete package" to that area by the WHO in more than two years. It did not give an update on Moadamieh.

The United Nations says at least 212,000 people remain besieged, mostly by the government, but also by insurgents.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011 with popular protests against President Bashar Assad and spiraled into civil war after a crackdown by security forces.

 

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