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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Aid enters besieged Syria region hit by hunger crisis

The UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) said a joint aid convoy had entered Eastern Ghouta on Monday, carrying food and medical supplies

A man takes medical gloves out of a washing machine, rebel-held Douma, besieged Eastern Ghouta, Syria, on October 21, 2017. Due to the siege, nurses inside Damascus Countryside Specialised Hospital started washing gloves, surgical suture, and ventilation tubes, and then sterilise these tools by using formaldehyde. Mohammed Bedra / EPA
A man takes medical gloves out of a washing machine, rebel-held Douma, besieged Eastern Ghouta, Syria, on October 21, 2017. Due to the siege, nurses inside Damascus Countryside Specialised Hospital started washing gloves, surgical suture, and ventilation tubes, and then sterilise these tools by using formaldehyde. Mohammed Bedra / EPA

Dozens of trucks carrying aid for 40,000 people on Monday entered the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus, where residents and relief groups have warned a humanitarian crisis is escalating.

Shocking images from the region earlier this month showed severely underweight children, and doctors reported two infants had died of malnutrition and related complications.

The United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said a joint aid convoy had entered Eastern Ghouta on Monday, carrying food and medical supplies.

"We entered Eastern Ghouta … we are planning on delivering aid to Kafr Batna and Saqba today for 40,000 [people]," said Linda Tom, spokeswoman for the UN's humanitarian coordination agency, OCHA.

The joint UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy included 49 trucks carrying "eight thousand food parcels and a similar number of bags of flour, medicine, medical supplies, and other nutritional materials," Red Crescent spokeswoman Mona Kurdi said.

The aid will be distributed across several districts including Hamouria, Ain Tarma, Kafr Batna and Saqba, the Red Crescent said.

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Eastern Ghouta was once a prime agricultural region famed for its orchards.

But the rebel stronghold has been under a tight government siege since 2013, causing shortages of food and medicine.

That pushed up prices for whatever supplies could be produced locally or smuggled in.

The region has been devastated by years of fighting, with government air strikes and shelling bringing down multi-storey buildings and rendering whole streets uninhabitable.

Basic services for the region's estimated 400,000 residents are virtually non-existent, with electricity produced only by generators and the available water often dirty and a vector for disease.

Aid has entered the area only sporadically, and convoys have generally only been able to deliver food and medical supplies that fall far short of the region's needs.