HOMS, Syria 11 February 2014 – At least 500 children were among civilians evacuated from the besieged old city of Homs over the past few days during the ongoing humanitarian operation being undertaken by the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
The humanitarian pause was the first that the UN has brokered in the embattled old quarter of the city which has been under siege for more than 600 days.
“The children who came out looked frail and emaciated,” said UNICEF’s Tarek Hefnawy who took part in the operation.
Despite coming under attack on 8 February, the humanitarian convoy managed to deliver supplies including sufficient water purification tablets provided by UNICEF to support the remaining population.
UNICEF staff also ensured that children arriving at the reception centre outside the old city were immediately given high-nutrition supplements. A total of 380 children have received on-the-spot vaccination against polio, DPT, Hepatitis B, measles and other preventable diseases. Staff reported the presence of about 20 pregnant women among the evacuees.
UNICEF staff accompanied children identified as vulnerable until they reached safety to ensure they were not separated from their families or otherwise placed at risk.
Before the humanitarian operation began, UNICEF estimated there were more than 1,000 children trapped in Homs.
“This is a very positive break-through but it can only be the beginning,” said UNICEF Syria Representative Youssouf Abdel Jelil.
“We remain extremely concerned over the fate of the children who are still trapped in Homs and in other besieged communities all over Syria. Parties to the conflict must protect children, respect humanitarian pauses and abide by international humanitarian law principles to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those who desperately need it,” he added.
For more information, please contact:
Juliette Touma, UNICEF Middle East and North Africa, +962 7986 74628, email@example.com