Bel Trew, Cairo
Conditions in the last rebel-held suburb of Damascus have reached a critical point with food in desperately short supply amid plunging temperatures, aid agencies and locals have warned.
Eastern Ghouta, a suburb northeast of the Syrian capital, has been pummelled by hundreds of airstrikes and artillery shells since mid-November, when the Assad regime stepped up its air campaign to finally crush the opposition’s longest-surviving enclave.
The Red Cross expressed alarm at the humanitarian crisis faced by the 400,000 civilians estimated to be in the area. There is a “frightening food shortage” and temperatures have fallen close to freezing at night.
“The humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta has reached a critical point . . . Some families can afford to eat only one meal a day,” Robert Mardini, the middle east director, said.
Doctors in the area told The Times that the medical situation was catastrophic because life-saving medicines and supplies were no longer available.
“We have a list of 572 patients who need to be urgently evacuated because their treatment is not possible in Ghouta,” said one doctor. “So far the authorities have allowed only 12 cases to be evacuated to the capital’s hospitals via the Red Cross. We have 138 children who need to be urgently evacuated . . . 16 have already died.