Aid workers have begun evacuating emergency medical cases from Eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held area besieged by the Syrian regime, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday (December 27th).
The move comes after months of waiting, during which the UN said at least 16 people died, AFP reported.
Three children were among the first four patients to leave, heading from Douma for hospitals in Damascus, said Red Crescent official Ahmed al-Saour.
The Syrian American Medical Society said the evacuations covered "29 critical cases, approved for medical evacuation to Damascus".
It said the remainder would be evacuated in the coming days.
The dominant opposition faction in Eastern Ghouta, Jaish al-Islam, said the opposition had agreed to free some of its prisoners in return for the evacuations.
Eastern Ghouta has been under siege since 2013, causing severe food and medical shortages for its nearly 400,000 residents.
Last week, Jan Egeland, the head of the UN's humanitarian taskforce for Syria, warned that at least 16 people had died while waiting for evacuation from Eastern Ghouta.
He said a list put together several months ago of nearly 500 civilians in desperate need of evacuation was rapidly shrinking.
"That number is going down, not because we are evacuating people, but because they are dying," he said. "We have confirmation of 16 having died on these lists since they were resubmitted in November, and it is probably higher."
Egeland said evacuations and efforts to bring aid into the region had been blocked by a lack of authorisations from the Syrian authorities.