A senior U.N. official warns many of the hundreds of critically wounded and ill people trapped in the besieged Syrian area of East Ghouta, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, could die without urgent medical treatment.
U.N. Special Envoy Jan Egeland said the United Nations has been waiting for two months for the Syrian government to give the green light to an emergency medical evacuation from East Ghouta. Over that time, he said the list of serious cases requiring urgent treatment has grown to 500.
“Not a single one of these have we been able to evacuate over those two months. Not a single one," he said. "So, men with power are sitting with lists of children that are in urgent need of being evacuated. If not, they will, many of them die and we still do not have the green light.”
About 440,000 civilians are trapped in East Ghouta, which has been under siege by the government of Bashar al-Assad since 2013. The rebel-held territory is just 15 kilometers from Damascus, where Egeland said hospitals are ready to receive patients.
“Hospitals that could be actually within 45 minutes-drive from where the wounded children are dying," he said. "These hospitals have the beds, the doctors — everything available. We are not able to do it. It is heartbreaking. It is intolerable. It will be a stain on our conscience for a very, very long time unless it can happen very soon.”
Egeland said nine patients on the critical list already have died, and those most in need of emergency medical care are women and children.
The U.N. envoy is appealing to the United States, Russia and other big power players to put pressure on the Syrian government to allow the U.N. life-saving medical operation to go ahead.