By David Youngmeyer
Douma/ Damascus, 15 June 2014 – A UN supply convoy, which included vital UNICEF supplies, recently reached the besieged town of Douma, north of the Syrian capital Damascus.
The supplies included food and non-food items, along with medicines for around 120,000 people. UNICEF contributed family hygiene kits, baby hygiene kits and collapsible 10 litre water containers for 2,000 people. The hygiene kits include essential materials for conflict-affected families such as towels, shampoo, sanitary napkins, baby rash cream, toothpaste, soap, toothbrushes, buckets and washing powder. The remaining UNICEF supplies – high energy biscuits and fortified spread sachets – were designed to supplement the nutritional needs of 4,000 children.
Douma has been under siege for over 18 months, leaving people in desperate need of food, water, sanitation, health services and medicines. At the time of the mission, it had been nearly two months since humanitarian workers were last able to get relief supplies into the city. An estimated 74,500 people are in need in Douma, including 8,000 people displaced from their homes.
The supplies were delivered to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) warehouse in Douma. As the supplies were being prepared for distribution, however, an attack occurred on the warehouse. Two people were reportedly killed and a SARC volunteer was injured.
Apart from delivering supplies, the UN team was also able to meet partners and assess the humanitarian situation for children and families.
Living conditions are very difficult for people living in the area. Children’s day-to-day lives are characterized by ongoing fighting, destroyed infrastructure, and a lack of basic supplies.
“We saw pools of raw sewage on the ground and passed an open dump site where people were burning rubbish. People are relying on local wells for water, but the water is not safe to drink,” said a UN worker familiar with the mission.
“The city’s water pumping station is not working due to lack of electricity, while there is a shortage of fuel to provide generator power. In addition the sewerage system is damaged.”
“These kind of conditions increase the likelihood that water-borne diseases like diarrhoea and cholera will spread. Children under five are particularly at risk of contracting such diseases.”
The UN worker saw several partially-damaged schools while driving through the area. SARC colleagues reported that children were still able to attend school, but that classes were held in basements due to frequent shelling.