Desperately needed aid delivered on Sunday (November 12th) to Eastern Ghouta, an area outside Damascus under siege by the Syrian regime, will only be sufficient for a few days, activists in the area told Diyaruna.
The arrival of humanitarian aid coincided with the launch of a grassroots media campaign that is attempting to address the wider issue by demanding an end to the siege, they said.
Through negotiations with the Syrian regime, the UN was able to secure the entry of medical supplies to the area, said Dr. Anas Abu Yasser, who works at the medical office in al-Marj, an area of Eastern Ghouta.
Medical supplies were brought in on Sunday and the distribution process began on Monday, Abu Yasser told Diyaruna.
The UN convoy was accompanied by a delegation of international humanitarian and relief organisations and the Syrian Red Crescent, he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said a joint operation with the UN had transported 24 trucks of food and medical supplies to the city of Douma, AFP reported.
The aid delivery was the first to the area in nearly three months, the ICRC said.
Though much anticipated, the delivery sparked frustration, Abu Yasser told Diyaruna, as the aid was not sufficient to feed all those in need, and supplies will only last a few days.
There are 27,000 families in Douma alone, he noted, and about half a million residents in the besieged area in total.
The food aid consists of legumes, sugar, rice, oil and salt.
"The local council, which has been tasked with distribution, will re-apportion the food baskets so aid can be distributed to the largest number of residents possible," he said.
Abu Yasser warned of a looming humanitarian disaster, especially for children, as the fatality rate among them is rising.
The most recent death was recorded on Monday in the city of Saqba, he said, where a lack of heart disease medicine and treatment contributed to the fate of 13-year-old Waleed Obeid.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said one civilian in Eastern Ghouta reportedly died on Sunday of kidney failure, and that other patients in the area had lost their lives because of the restrictions on aid, AFP reported.
Call for siege to be lifted
Syrian activists on Monday launched a media campaign to call for an end to the siege on Eastern Ghouta imposed by the regime and its allies since 2014, said activist Mohammed al-Beik of the Eastern Ghouta co-ordination committee.
The campaign, conducted by activists inside and outside the area, will focus on social media, making use of the #BreakGhoutaSiege hashtag, he told Diyaruna.
"The effort is an attempt to mobilise the international community to pressure the Syrian regime to lift the siege imposed on the region once and for all," he said.
"Residents of Eastern Ghouta do not want this meagre aid," al-Beik added, "but rather ask that the siege be lifted so they can manage their affairs normally."
The price of food and other commodities has risen steeply as a result of the siege, he said, with basic food items smuggled into the area offered for sale at 10 times the regular price.
In addition to the high prices and food shortages, he added, public health has reached a critical level due to the current shortage of supplies, and thousands are in need of evacuation to receive medical treatment.
'Epicentre of suffering'
Jan Egeland, the head of the UN's humanitarian taskforce for Syria, on Sunday dubbed Eastern Ghouta "the epicentre of suffering" in the country.
"Around 400 men, women, children... need to be evacuated now," he said, adding that 29 of them, including 18 children, "will die if they are not evacuated".
The World Health Organisation said Sunday it had prepared a plan to evacuate people from Eastern Ghouta.
"At this stage, however, no formal approval for evacuations has been received from the responsible national authorities," the WHO said.
"We have now reached a critical point, where the lives of hundreds of people, including many children, are at stake," said WHO representative Elizabeth Hoff, describing the situation as "heartbreaking".
The ICRC and the UN's humanitarian affairs co-ordination office (OCHA) in Damascus both said there were no medical evacuations planned as part of Sunday's aid operation.