Syria: ceasefire appeal to relieve "epicentre of suffering"

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A family seeking shelter in besieged East Ghouta, Syria, in 2015. Photo: UNICEF/Amer Al Shami

A ceasefire appeal has been issued to the Syrian government and opposition fighters by a senior aid adviser to the UN, amid reports that hundreds of critically ill people need to be evacuated immediately from besieged areas of rural Damascus.

Speaking on Thursday in Geneva, Jan Egeland described Eastern Ghouta as the "epicentre of suffering".

It receives only intermittent aid, a victim of the ongoing conflict which began in 2011.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Just outside the Syrian capital Damascus, Eastern Ghouta is home to more than 400,000 people.

They live in a dozen or so besieged towns and villages and their only lifeline now is the UN, whose aid lorries were unable to reach them last week.

It's not the only place in the war-torn country where the misery is barely imaginable.

But the situation is deteriorating in Eastern Ghouta, and there's particular concern for around 400 severely wounded or malnourished men, women and children.

They are being cared for in clinics, basements and makeshift hospitals.

Of the 29 most critical cases, 18 are children, according to Special Advisor to the UN Jan Egeland:

"Among them, young Khala, Kadija, Munir, Basem. They all have a name, they all have a story. They all have the urgent need to be evacuated now…So what about a ceasefire now for this area and a green light to all medical evacuations and that is of course our appeal to the government side and to the rebels that are throwing mortar grenades the other way and into civilians areas in Damascus."

Several areas of Syria have seen a reduction in fighting, thanks to an agreement between various international players in the conflict.

There's "not much de-escalation" in Eastern Ghouta today though, the UN Special Adviser said, ahead of a new round of Intra-Syrian peace talks planned in Geneva later this month.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’28″


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