Background and Key Findings
Eastern Ghouta is an agricultural region east of Damascus that is home to nearly 400,000 people. The area has faced access restrictions since the beginning of the Syrian conflict and was classified by the United Nations (UN) as besieged in 2013. As part of its Community Profiles programme and in partnership with the Syria NGO Regional Forum (SIRF), REACH has been conducting monthly assessments on the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta since June 2016. During this time, REACH assessments have highlighted a number of severe humanitarian challenges faced by Eastern Ghouta’s population, including protection concerns, limited access to basic health and education services, as well as shortages in basic food and non-food commodities. By the end of 2017, there were reports of acute food insecurity and, more generally, a humanitarian situation reaching critical levels in the area.
On 18 February 2018, a new offensive was launched on Eastern Ghouta. An extraordinary increase in bombardment and shelling ensued and was followed by a ground offensive on 25 February despite efforts by international actors to broker a ceasefire. To understand the impact of the increased hostilities on the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta, REACH conducted a round of data collection between 28 February and 1 March.
The latest assessment points to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ghouta. The already existing vulnerability of its inhabitants has been compounded by the intensification of conflict, which has hampered residents’ ability to operate services or markets, distribute stocked relief items, and leave their shelter to access food, potable water or services.
Key assessment findings include the following:
Civilian movement was extremely limited due to the high intensity of bombardment. This reportedly impaired people’s ability to access basic services due to extensive damage to hospitals and schools; markets, including food and fuel; and sufficient amounts of water .
Access to food deteriorated from already-critical levels reported in previous months, and there were reports of death due to a lack of access to food in Saqba.
Access to drinking water was insufficient across assessed communities, which has reportedly led to the consumption of water from untreated surface wells and the reliance on manual pumps to procure this water in the absence of fuel or electricity.
Access to medical facilities, personnel, and services was critically low, in large part due to the destruction of medical infrastructure and deteriorated security situation, shortages in personnel, high caseloads, and a severe lack of medical supplies.
Note that as of 5 March 2018, the entry of an inter-agency convoy was permitted to Duma, carrying food and medical aid for 27,500 people. However, the majority of medical supplies were reportedly removed before entry, and the convoy had to leave before distributing all of the aid due to shelling.