Convoy with UNHCR aid reaches besieged Syrian farm town
Multi-agency relief convoy delivers vital food, medicines and other aid to 10,000 residents cut off in East Harasta since early 2012.
EAST HARASTA, Syria, May 19 (UNHCR) – A UN relief convoy has delivered vital food, medicines and other aid to some 10,000 residents cut off in this Syrian farm town without power and running water for more than three years.
The 29-truck convoy packed with items including cooking oil, flour, lentils, tarpaulins and cooking utensils this week reached residents of East Harasta, a rich agricultural heartland just 11 kilometres from the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Local people have been able to survive by growing some fruit and vegetables since the siege began in early 2013, but have lacked most staples. Access to services including healthcare and education is limited.
“I wish that… the international community would look closely at the Syrian crisis and help the Syrian people by providing relief to their towns,” said local resident Noureldine, 55, shortly after the convoy of rolled into the town on Wednesday (May 18).
“We need cooking oil, ghee, meat and other food supplies that is lacking. In addition, we want to live a normal life again,” he added.
Now in its sixth year, Syria’s bloody civil war has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 4.8 million to flee to neighbouring countries alone. Of those who remain, more than 4.5 million people live in hard-to-reach areas or besieged towns.
Since the beginning of this year, and benefiting from the cessation of hostilities that began in February, the UN inter-agency efforts have led to over 50 convoys that brought life saving humanitarian supplies to almost 800,000 Syrians in need.
The trucks that reached East Harasta carried aid from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, as well as UNICEF, WHO, UNOCHA, WFP and FAO. It was also accompanied by the Syrian Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Residents told UNHCR that electricity is intermittent, running water a luxury, and that they have to pump water by hand from wells to survive.
Former sweet factory worker Shadi said he had provided for his family since the siege began with the US$2 he earned a day from occasional plowing or harvesting work on local farms. Barely able to support his 16-month-old daughter, he was pessimistic.
“I don’t see any future. I am not sure if I want to have more children,” he said, “but if I do, I want them to have a better life than mine.”
The UN teams are carrying out a rapid assessment of conditions on the ground in East Harasta to identify the gaps and needs of the residents, to better plan for future relief operations.
Five schools remain functional with limited numbers of students and just a few teachers, which offer classes up to the ninth grade.