IRC: East Ghouta ‘truce’ must include evacuation of hundreds of sick and wounded

Source: International Rescue Committee

Hundreds of desperately ill people in East Ghouta, including dozens injured in the recent bombing campaign, must be provided with immediate medical evacuation as part of any proposed truce, says the International Rescue Committee. The humanitarian agency also calls for the sustained, safe passage of medicine, medical supplies, food, as well as the provision of essential services to East Ghouta, and an urgent response to the current malnutrition crisis gripping the area.

The latest round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva has included a proposed 48-hour truce in East Ghouta, which has seen two weeks of increased bombardment, resulting in dozens of civilian deaths and injuries. IRC health partners In East Ghouta estimate that there are around 450 people in desperate need of medical evacuation but haven’t been given permission to leave. The list includes cancer patients and those needing kidney dialysis, as well as civilians badly injured in the recent bombing campaign. The IRC has been told that medical staff in East Ghouta are stretched to their greatest extent since the siege first began.

Thomas Garofalo, International Rescue Committee’s Middle East Public Affairs Director, said: “A two-day truce is not nearly enough for civilians facing grave violations of international law – including bombardment and besiegement — but it is a window of opportunity to save the lives of the most desperately in need of treatment. It would also allow aid convoys of food and medicine reach areas that have not seen any relief for many months.”

Nearly 400,000 people have lived under siege in East Ghouta for the past four years. A tightening of the siege in recent months has left the population cut off from food and medicine, and caused a rocketing of food prices, leaving over a thousand children malnourished. Six IRC supported health facilities in East Ghouta have treated hundreds of malnourished children.

The intensity of the current bombardment has compounded the medical disaster in East Ghouta because it means people are too scared to travel to seek treatment as well as make it too dangerous for safely move around fuel and other essential needed for health clinics to fully operate.

Residents in East Ghouta told the IRC in November that the siege is impacting on children the most. Around a quarter of children unable to get to school, often because they need to work to help support their families or because the journey is simply too dangerous.