A 46-truck aid convoy — some vehicles stripped of desperately needed medical supplies — entered the besieged rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Monday, after Syrian officials barred items at the last minute.
It’s the first time humanitarian aid has been able to enter the enclave since the Syrian regime launched a devastating offensive more than two weeks ago.
“Many medical supplies were not allowed — this is mainly trauma kits — and as a result there will be some trucks, big trucks, that will only be partially full, ” Linda Tom, spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Syria (OCHA), told CNN.
Trauma kits usually include medical supplies such as blood, clotting agents and bandages. While it is not unusual for such kits to be removed from aid convoys, it is nonetheless devastating for the estimated 1,000 people in Eastern Ghouta needing immediate medical attention.
“These medical supplies were not allowed to be loaded at the last minute this morning,” Tom said of the Syrian regime’s security inspection, adding that the entire shipment is intended for 70,000 people in Douma, an area north of the enclave.
The convoy includes 5,500 food parcels for more than 27,500 people, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). One parcel is expected to last a family of five for a month.
Members of OCHA, who were already en route to Eastern Ghouta, were also stopped by Syrian officials from continuing their journey, according to Tom.
The convoy included other UN agencies, in addition to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent, which continued the journey.
Tom called on the Syrian government to allow OCHA officials to bring in “badly needed” medical supplies on Thursday, when more aid is due to enter the area on the outskirts of Damascus.
Why Eastern Ghouta?
Almost 600 people are believed to have been killed and over 2,000 injured since Syrian government forces launched an air and ground offensive on Eastern Ghouta on February 18, according to the statement.
Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) put the civilian death toll even higher Saturday, reporting that 770 had been killed and more than 4,000 wounded just between February 18 and February 27. At the same time, ground-based strikes and mortar shelling from Eastern Ghouta have killed and injured scores of civilians in neighboring Damascus.
The main rebel units actively holding territory in Eastern Ghouta are the Islamist Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al Rahman, which have taken part in peace negotiations in the past. According to activists, there are small pockets of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate, still in the area.