Syrian humanitarian organisations working in Eastern Ghouta have been forced to halt the delivery of life-saving aid to the area following heavy bombardment which has pushed civilians – including aid workers – into underground shelters, CARE has warned.
CARE’s Country Director for Syria, Wouter Schaap, said the escalating violence had made it impossible to get aid into the area.
“It’s impossible for humanitarian agencies to reach the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians trapped in Eastern Ghouta,” he said. “Civilians are deprived of food and medicine and are facing hunger and death. If a ceasefire is not reached now, we will be facing a humanitarian catastrophe.”
More than 100 civilians, including children, were reportedly killed in air raids, rocket strikes and shelling on Monday, in what was the heaviest one-day death toll in Eastern Ghouta. On Tuesday, the toll had risen to nearly 200, according to media reports. The area, home to nearly 400,000 people who have been besieged since 2012 by government forces, has recently seen a surge in deadly airstrikes, and a tightening of the siege.
Local organisations active in the area and supported by CARE have reported shelling and airstrikes targeting heavily populated areas, with vital civilian infrastructure such as bakeries, markets and medical facilities under attack.
Hanaa*, who works with a CARE-partnered local organisation, said the situation in Eastern Ghouta was more critical than ever.
“Despite their resilience for years, people are giving up hope of survival. Unlike previous airstrikes, destruction has reached every area this time. There is no place for people to go – no shelter, no safety,” she said.
CARE and its partners in Syria call for an immediate ceasefire, strongly supporting the United Nations’ call for a 30-day humanitarian truce and lifting of the siege to allow humanitarian agencies to deliver critical aid to hundreds of thousands of people and evacuate civilians in need of urgent medical care.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
CARE Australia is an international humanitarian aid organisation fighting poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring lasting change to their communities. To support CARE’s Syria Crisis Appeal, go to care.org.au/syria