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WHO Prepares to Deliver Medical Supplies to Syria

An injured boy waits for treatment in a field hospital after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Dec. 23, 2014.

The World Health Organization said it is preparing to deliver medical and other relief supplies to several rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus, and suburbs of the country's largest city, Aleppo, following an agreement between the U.N. and the government.

It was not immediately clear when those deliveries would begin.

A U.N. relief convoy was recently allowed to deliver supplies to the rebel-held town of Telbiseh, near Syria's third-largest city, Homs. Such agreements have been difficult to carry out during previous attempts, and some critically needed supplies were not included.

WHO Syria relief effort coordinator Elizabeth Hoff told VOA the onset of winter has made the need for medicine extremely urgent.

"It is winter and very cold and we have more upper respiratory infections in children and also in adults, so these are concerns in addition to the normal difficulties that we are facing on the ground, but the health situation in general is deteriorating,” said Hoff.

Arab satellite channels have shown amateur videos of residents in some Syrian towns cutting down ancient olive trees to heat their houses. Natural gas and heating oil are in extremely short supply in many places and prices are beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Battle wounds

Hoff noted medicine and supplies to treat battle wounds is critical.

“The needs are increasing, particularly for trauma care and for medicines and supplies to care for chronic diseases like (diabetes), asthma and epilepsy and also for normal care, which is happening in any population,” she said.

“And we have almost 57 percent of the health facilities which are damaged, partially damaged or out of service completely, so we are trying to fill gaps, either at the central or the local level,” added Hoff.

She said health supplies are not affected by EU or U.S. sanctions against Syria, but are in short supply.

"Medicines and medical supplies are not under sanctions, but they are affected by the side-effects of the sanctions because the government cannot (move) capital outside of the country to procure the supplies ... and it is quite clear that anything that can be done to help for these supplies to come in also for the government would be of great aid,” said Hoff.

Seven outlying regions of Aleppo will be included in the WHO aid deliveries, along with the besieged rebel-held Damascus suburbs of Douma and Madhamiya.

U.N. special envoy for Syria Stefan de Mistura has been trying to negotiate a partial cease-fire in Aleppo with the Syrian government and rebel leaders.

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