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Syrian Authorities Give UN Green Light to Deliver Aid to Eastern Ghouta

Children are seen near rubble after an airstrike in the besieged town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, Feb. 6, 2018.

United Nations aid agencies are gearing up for the first delivery in months of desperately needed humanitarian assistance to thousands of people trapped in the besieged Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Syrian authorities finally have given permission for the U.N. convoy to enter the enclave’s town of Douma on Sunday.

The convoy will be carrying food, medicine and other crucial relief supplies from a number of U.N. and international agencies for 180,000 people. The U.N. Children’s fund, which is part of that convoy, will have supplies on board for 70,000 children.

Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, says nutritional and health supplies are a priority given the alarmingly high number of malnourished children in Eastern Ghouta.

“We have seen the levels of severe acute malnutrition in Ghouta in the last few months multiplying by at least 10.... We have also health supplies on board. These are mainly midwifery kits to help ensuring that women who are giving birth are being properly assisted,” Cappelaere said.

The United Nations reports about 1,000 people need to be evacuated from Eastern Ghouta to receive life-saving medical treatment. Cappelaere told VOA a number of children are among them, but unfortunately, no clearance has yet been given for this operation to proceed.

“In Eastern Ghouta there are many children who have been seriously injured and who cannot be attended to with the available medical expertise, with the available medical supplies. And there are children who have illnesses that again cannot be treated any longer inside, and therefore need to come out, and if they cannot come out, there is a threat for their life.”

Cappelaere regrets that the convoy will not carry enough supplies for all 200,000 children living in Eastern Ghouta. He says he hopes the humanitarian operation will become a regular occurrence so all of the 400,000 residents, including the children in this besieged territory, can receive life-saving aid.