Conflict in Syria: The Suffering Of 350,000 Civilians In Rural Damascus

In a news release from his office, The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for the government and various armed groups to allow citizens on the outskirts of Damascus access to essential supplies like baby food and medical items. Clashes between various armed groups have contributed to the widespread suffering of citizens in the Eastern Ghouta area of Syria. And the release of horrific images of dangerously malnourished children provoked the UN to release a statement: “The shocking images of what appear to be severely malnourished children that have emerged in recent days are a frightening indication of the plight of people in Eastern Ghouta, who are now facing a humanitarian emergency,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The situation in Eastern Ghouta is extremely in need of humanitarian relief. For more than four years the area has been under siege by Government forces. Residential areas that previously were not under attack are now being affected by ground based strikes. These quarrels have limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to deliver essential aid supplies.

High Commisioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the parties in conflict to consider the needs of the suffering citizens: “If parties to a conflict cannot meet the needs of the population under their control, they must allow and facilitate efforts by impartial humanitarian agencies to provide aid, including by granting them the right of free passage.” The role of humanitarian agencies in the Eastern Ghouta area is vital for the well-being of citizens. Young children are especially in need of food supplies and other items to combat severe health issues. The restricted efforts of humanitarian agencies in the area will lead to the health of children deteriorating. In fact, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNCIEF) believes that more than 1,100 children in the Eastern Ghouta are suffering from acute malnutrition.  The horrific images demonstrate the effect of damage conflict on the well-being of citizens, especially children. UNs World Food Programme spokeswoman Dina El-Kassaby commented on the specific threat in Eastern Ghouta to children: “More people will suffer, and more people will go hungry … if they don’t have consistent access to the area to deliver food.”

Since Government forces captured the eastern Damascus areas of Qabaoun and Barze in May, the prices of basic goods have escalated. The United Nations detailed the growing desperation of the Eastern Ghouta people, stating two food warehouses in the last month have been stormed and looted. The situation in Eastern Ghouta is horrific, and it will not improve until humanitarian agencies are able to provide aid. The last time the UN could deliver aid to the besieged and rural areas was on the 23 September however conditions have worsened since then, and the livelihood of citizens in Eastern Ghouta are now in jeopardy.