Statement by Panos Moumtzis, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, on East Ghouta [EN/AR]
Amman, 19 February 2018
I am deeply alarmed by the extreme escalation in hostilities in East Ghouta of today which has resulted in the deaths of over 40 civilians and more than 150 injuries in the besieged enclave, some areas which have been besieged since 2013.
Since 15 February, clashes have been reported in several locations including: Harasta, Alzreqiyyah and Hazrama, Irbin, Duma, Madyara, Mesraba, Al-Shefouniyyah, Al-Rehan, Kafr Batna, Saqba, Shibonieh and Nashabiyah resulting in a number of civilian deaths and injuries.
Hundreds of civilians, many of them women and children, have lost their lives or been injured in airstrikes and shelling since November. There have been daily reports about civilians being killed and others being severely wounded, in addition to warehouses, hospitals and schools being damaged or destroyed.
Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.
The recent escalation of violence compounds an already precarious humanitarian situation for the 393,000 residents of East Ghouta, many of them internally displaced, and which account for 94 per cent of all Syrians living under besiegement today.
Overall access to East Ghouta remains woefully inadequate. No convoys were undertaken in December and January due to limited access.
While requests for inter-agency humanitarian convoys for East Ghouta are systematically made monthly, just one convoy was allowed to the town of Nashabieh on 14 February, delivering life-saving food, health and nutrition assistance to 7,200 people, but well short of the overall needs.
The lack of access has led to severe food shortages and a sharp rise in food prices, with a buddle of bread now costing close to 22 times the national average. Malnutrition rates have now reached unprecedented levels, with 11.9 per cent of children under five years old acutely malnourished – the highest rate recorded in Syria since the beginning of the crisis, while the number of people requiring medical evacuations continues to surge, with hundreds of patients now in urgent need of medical attention.
We continue to call for unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to close to 3 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach locations across Syria, including East Ghouta, and urge all parties to the conflict to strictly adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law to take all feasible measures to protect civilians from harm, including the prohibition on launching of indiscriminate attacks and principles of proportionality and precautions.
The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of control. It’s imperative to end this senseless human suffering now. Such targeting of innocent civilians and infrastructure must stop now.