In an urgent appeal, two United Nations human rights experts on Friday called on the Government of Syria to immediately allow evacuation of more than 430 patients trapped in besieged eastern Ghouta, a rural area on the outskirts of Damascus.
“We call on the Government of Syria to immediately allow the medical evacuation of all the most urgent cases, and to ensure the safe and sustained humanitarian access required to allow food and medical supplies to enter the area for patient treatment,” the UN experts said in the urgent appeal.
“We remind the Government of Syria of its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, to care for the sick and wounded in Eastern Ghouta, and to ensure that medical resources and other vital supplies can safely reach the area,” the experts added.
The experts termed the obstruction of access to adequate health care for an estimated 350,000 civilians who have been under siege for four years as a “clear and repugnant violation of the right to health.”
About 435 patients had been identified as being in need of medical evacuation, including a number of children aged under five.
Since August this year, seven people are reported to have died while awaiting government authorization for evacuation. Only eight patients had been brought to safety over the same period.
Since the early days of the government-imposed siege in October 2013, civilians in Eastern Ghouta have suffered multiple violations of their human rights, including repeated deliberate targeting of health personnel and facilities and a variety of obstructions to access to health care.
According to a data from Health Cluster, medical units and health staff were attacked 15 times since 2016, with the killing of at least six health workers and injuries to 21. One third of health facilities are not fully functional, while others have shortages of health personnel and medical supplies.
The area was designated as a “de-escalation zone” in the agreement brokered in May 2017 by the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran, which was designed in part to guarantee unhindered medical evacuation and humanitarian aid delivery.
Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that he was “outraged” at the situation of being faced by the 350,000 besieged civilians.