The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ghouta has reached epic proportions, with 400,000 civilians living in the enclave continuing to suffer under daily aerial bombardment. On Sunday, February 19, Syrian forces backed by Russian warplanes escalated the offensive on the rebel held enclave with a relentless bombing that killed hundreds of people within days. Government forces have allegedly used mortar shells, barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and bunker-busting munitions.
A five-hour UN truce was halted prematurely by fresh shelling on Tuesday, with both sides blaming each other for new attacks on the besieged enclave. It’s reported that at least five people, including women and children were killed. As of Wednesday, 582 civilians have been killed in Eastern Ghouta.
The relentless air and artillery strikes are leaving civilians, particularly women and children, in a state of fear and forcing them to seek shelter underground, where they are largely deprived of food and sanitation.
The escalating battle for control of the rebel-held towns and villages is being likened to the horror of Aleppo, where parts of the historic city were reduced to rubble.
“Children in Eastern Ghouta are being starved, bombed and trapped,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Response Director.
“Schools are supposed to be safe places for children, protected under international law, yet they are being attacked every single day. Children and teachers are terrified that at any moment they could be hit.”
The unfolding crisis has prompted South African humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers to launch an Eastern Ghouta appeal to raise funds for the most basic goods needed for survival. GOTG founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said the only option is to send cash which is used to purchase food and medical items at very highly inflated prices.
With the help of Dr Ahmad Ghandour, the head of Gift of the Givers Ar Rahma Hospital in Darkoush, the NGO has made arrangements with a “key medical person inside Ghouta”. This professor has been instrumental in co-ordinating medical and humanitarian relief in the war ravaged area.
“We have “voice notes” from the professor talking about the hardship of people inside Ghouta who have been battling to survive in the last three years. They ate plants and foliage, then in winter when there was no foliage they had to eat cats to survive. They have no income and no means to feed their families,” said Sooliman.
As a trial run, 20 000 euros were transferred from the hospital budget of Ar Rahma to the medical worker in Ghouta to purchase necessary items.
“There’s no way we can get into Ghouta. It’s completely sealed off and the bombing is severe. We cannot break the blockade, but we can get money inside,” said Dr Sooliman.
“Dr Ghandour has said that relief items are coming in, but the price is horrendous. One kilogram of rice will cost R120. The inflation is severe.”
“There’s no food, gas, medical supplies or medical equipment. So all we can do it try to send a little bit of money.”
By next week, the organisation would have released 100 000 euros into Ghouta and the process will continue.
The public are urged to donate by depositing into Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account Number 052278611, Branch Code 057525. Ref: Lillah or Zakaah Ghouta.
Send deposit slip to firstname.lastname@example.org for acknowledgement. VOC