World Bulletin / News Desk
The evacuation of emergency medical cases from Syria’s embattled Eastern Ghouta district, a suburb of Damascus, has officially begun, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The ICRC tweeted late Tuesday that its personnel, along with those of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), had “begun the evacuation of critical medical cases from Eastern Ghouta to central Damascus."
According to the SARC, the decision to transfer critical medical cases from Eastern Ghouta to hospitals in Damascus followed “lengthy talks” between SARC officials and representatives of the International Federation of the Red Cross.
Syrian regime officials, for their part, have yet to comment on the nascent evacuation process.
Hundreds of residents of Eastern Ghouta, which has remained under a crippling regime siege for the last five years, are in urgent need of medical attention.
Many of the district’s infants and young children have recently died due to acute malnutrition, hunger and a chronic shortfall of medicine.
Over the course of the last eight months, the Assad regime has stepped up its siege on Eastern Ghouta, making it almost impossible to bring food or medicine into the district and leaving hundreds of medical patients in need of treatment.
"The number of people awaiting evacuation due to inadequate medicine and medical supplies has now surpassed 600," Fayez Arabi, a spokesman for the opposition-held Rural Damascus Health Directorate, told Anadolu Agency.
This number, he said, was likely to increase in the near-term future as a direct result of the siege.
According to Arabi, most of those awaiting evacuation from the district require cancer treatment or emergency surgeries.
"Thirty cancer patients have died so far due to the lack of access to treatment,” he said. “Thirteen others have died as a result of the chronic lack of medicine.”
Babies and young children have been particularly affected by the ongoing siege.
According to the Rural Damascus Special Hospital, as many as 527 babies have died in Eastern Ghouta since 2014. Of these, 227 died within the first 10 months of this year due to malnutrition and the lack of access to medicine.
Home to some 400,000 civilian residents, Eastern Ghouta has remained under siege by the Assad regime since late 2012.
Notably, the district falls within a network of de-escalation zones -- endorsed by Turkey, Russia and Iran -- in which acts of aggression are expressly forbidden.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a destructive civil war that began in early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
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