AID BREAKTHROUGH: United Nations Humanitarian coordinator for Syria Yacoub al-Hillo spoke Saturday to opposition activists in Douma, roughly 10 km northeast of Damascus, after entering the town along with a United Nations, World Food Program (WFP) and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) caravan carrying 16 truckloadsof food and medical aid.
“This is a step within the humanitarian program that has been agreed upon by the government and opposition,” al-Hillo told Baraa Abdulrahman, spokesman for Douma’s Local Coordination Committee. Al-Hillo added that the program “will continue in the coming days.”
Saturday’s delivery followed another shipment March 20, during which international agencies delivered humanitarian supplies including 600 food parcels, 3000 blankets and several hundred cartons of baby formula. Abdulrahman told Syria Direct last week that the March 20 shipment was the first time UN workers had reached Eastern Ghouta in roughly two years.
“Prior to March 20, no aid whatsoever had entered Eastern Ghouta since the beginning of 2012,” he said.
Pro-opposition al-Aaan News reported that the convoy entered Douma only afterhaving been stalled by regime forces for more than two hours.
The shipment came just a day after UN Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos criticized pro-Assad forcesfor continuing to restrict humanitarian access inside Syria in the month after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2139 demanding improved access.
“Even if we have the agreement of the government in Damascus, we have examples of individuals on the ground that support the government…who will prevent us from crossing certain checkpoints or prevent us from delivering aid,” she said Friday.
Last week the UN released a report blasting government and rebel forces alike for having continued to block access despite Resolution 2139, stating that 175,000 citizens remain besieged by regime forces in addition to 45,000 who are encircled by opposition groups.
– By Mohammad Haj-Ali and Alex Simon on March 30, 2014.