OCHA Flash Update No. 2 - Syria Crisis – East Ghouta, 17 March 2018 [EN/AR]

Highlights

● Insecurity and fierce hostilities continue to endanger people in east Ghouta raising serious concerns for the protection of civilians in the area. Between 15 and 16 March, aerial bombardment on Kafr Batna, Saqba, Zamalka, Arbin and Hezzeh reportedly resulted in scores of civilian deaths and injuries.

● Since 11 March, at least 20,000 people reportedly left east Ghouta. The majority of those leaving are from the Hamouriyeh area. Those who left include at least 51 medical evacuations being treated in hospitals.

● Most of the people interviewed at the Dweir shelter had some health conditions (intestinal infections, hepatitis, skin disease, trauma) likely due to years of lack of access to medicine and health care.

● UN teams have been visiting the three collective shelters (Dweir, Adra and Herjelleh) in Rural Damascus where people who have left East Ghouta are staying.

● The UN has delivered emergency items such as food and nutrition items, NFIs, shelter, medical supplies and is supporting health and nutrition, WASH, education, protection and children protection services.

● SARC responded to the unexpected large number of arrivals and the UN is supporting with additional supplies as requested by SARC. Many supplies have already been delivered and distributed at the shelters, although more is needed given the scale of displacement.

● On 15 March, a UN/SARC/ICRC convoy delivered food assistance for 26,100 people in need in Duma. However, far more humanitarian assistance is needed in terms of other sectoral assistance and to other areas of the enclave. Most importantly, it is imperative a cessation of hostilities, as mandated by UNSC 2401 be implemented without delay.

Situation Overview

Insecurity and fierce hostilities continue to endanger people in East Ghouta raising serious concerns for the protection of civilians in the area. Clashes between Government of Syria (GoS) and Non-State Armed Groups (NSAG) were reported, with GoS forces reportedly taking full control over Hamouriyeh (or Hammura) town, as well as parts of Saqba town. In the northern part of the enclave, GoS forces reportedly advanced to the frontline into Al-Reyhan village, east of Duma city. Aerial bombardments on Arbin, Zamalka and Hezzeh were reported between 15 and 17 March. Zamalka was particularly affected by ground and air strikes reportedly killing 20 people, according to local sources. On 16 March, air strikes on Kafr Batna and Sabqa reportedly resulted in scores of civilian deaths and injuries.

Since 11 March, an estimated 20,000 people left East Ghouta. The majority of those leaving are from the Hamouriyeh (or Hammura) area, given the fierce fighting and damage to civilian infrastructure. An estimated 600 to 700 people were evacuated from Duma, among them 51 patients who were admitted to Al Mujtahed Hospital and Al Hilal Al Ahmar Hospital as of 16 March. Two patients, children aged 1.5 and 7 years old, were initially without companions, so UNICEF received approvals to send adult focal points to the hospital. Family unity for medical evacuees should be maintained. On 17 March, people exited from East Harasta; according to media sources the number of displace is over 300 people. SARC is collecting and tracking patient information, but it is not known at this stage how many of the patients are part of the list of 77 priority medical evacuation cases put together by East Ghouta health actors. The exact number of people who have exited East Ghouta is not known, nor are the destinations of all evacuees, as registration in collective shelters is ongoing. The UN is not involved in registration.

While the number of people evacuating East Ghouta is expected to increase, the UN reiterates that mass evacuations of civilians should remain a last resort as per international humanitarian law. Moreover, protection concerns remain regarding the conditions around the evacuation of civilians in terms of the existence of guarantees that ensure a safe and voluntary exit of civilians, including freedom of movement and their ability to return to their homes. Civilians who choose to remain must also be assisted and protected in accordance to international humanitarian law, including access to humanitarian assistance and services.

Internally displaced people are currently being hosted at three main collective shelters: Dweir, Herjelleh, and Adra. Most of the people interviewed at the Dweir collective shelter had some health conditions (intestinal infections, hepatitis, skin disease, trauma) due to years of lack of access to medicine and healthcare. Most children and women suffered from scabies and lice and many are suffering from severe and moderate malnutrition. Immediate priorities include conducting a comprehensive health screening for all the people in collective shelters to prevent the spread of disease, and provide mental health support, and reproductive health and nutrition services.

For people who remain in each of the three enclaved areas of East Ghouta, their situation is dire. There is limited food, with reports of the usual ration of bread for one day being consumed over the period of a week to ten days; insufficient sanitation and hygiene support for those living in basements, and increased risk of communicable disease given these conditions. On 16 March, OCHA received reports of a continuing desperate situation in East Ghouta where surgical interventions are taking place without anesthesia, suturing is being done with household items, and patients are reportedly recovering in basements, as medical facilities are unsafe. The conditions in underground shelters are unsanitary and are worsening as they seek to accommodate many of the internally displaced.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.