AMMAN: The first of two humanitarian aid convoys scheduled to reach more than 70,000 blockaded residents of the northern Homs area of Houla this week arrived on Tuesday, but was “only enough for a very short period of time,” a local aid activist told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
Nearly eight months since the last delivery of aid, 27 trucks containing 9,000 aid parcels arrived on Tuesday in Houla, a northern Homs area made up of three villages. Another 18 trucks carrying 4,000 additional parcels are scheduled to arrive on Thursday, Houla aid activist Ahmad al-Homsi told Syria Direct on Wednesday, adding “this isn’t enough for everyone, it’s only enough for a very short period of time.”
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross coordinated Tuesday’s delivery, shown in images posted online by a correspondent for the opposition Homs Media Center in Houla the same day.
“There are more than 70,000 people here, in addition to thousands of displaced people from the south Hama countryside,” Houla local council member Abu Ahmad told Syria Direct on Wednesday, calling the humanitarian situation in Houla a “catastrophe.”
The three villages that make up Houla are part of a pocket of rebel-controlled territories in northern Homs and neighboring southern Hama province, blockaded by regime forces and allied militias since early 2012. FSA brigades, Ahrar a-Sham and Jaish al-Islam currently control Houla.
Unloading aid in al-Houla on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Husein Joukhadar.
A regime offensive this January cut off vital smuggling routes that brought food to the area from Hama, while also pushing thousands of south Hama residents into northern Homs.
Speaking with Syria Direct in January, citizen journalist Abu Shadi al-Hamawi described the flight of south Hama residents into northern Homs as one “from certain death to a slow death by starvation.” [For Syria Direct’s previous coverage of blockaded northern Homs and a map of the movement of those displaced by fighting in southern Hama, see here].
The aid that arrived on Tuesday included food, medicine and supplies to repair local wells, Homs Media Center correspondent Hussein Abu Muhammad told Syria Direct Tuesday.
Among the food supplies were items that aid activist al-Homsi called “trivial” on Wednesday: “I was there when they unloaded the aid from the trucks, and I was shocked that it contained chocolate and biscuits.”
Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces removed surgical supplies from the aid delivery before allowing it to enter Houla.
Confirming that “surgical items were removed from today’s convoy,” Farhan Haq, the Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations stated in a Tuesday press briefing, stressing that “the UN continues to urge the government of Syria to allow the inclusion of all medical supplies.”
“Many injured people’s limbs have been amputated because of the absence of surgical equipment for some time now,” al-Homsi told Syria Direct.
While medicine was included in Tuesday’s aid convoy, longstanding medical shortages have “stopped many people from being treated,” particularly for chronic ailments, he adds.
“We’ve been forced to treat them with different drugs that might work, but have significant complications and threaten the lives of the sick.”