Damascus hospital low on supplies

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 00:00

Numerous wounded and starving Syrians, many of them women and children, are crowding into Damascus’s main hospital, where medical supplies are increasingly short, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) officials in Geneva.

As the war escalates around Damascus, doctors are treating up to 100 injured a day at the 400-bed city hospital and have had to use local anaesthetics for complex operations, said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

Cases of severe acute malnutrition in children being referred to the hospital from rural Damascus, Deir al-Zor, Hassakeh, Deraa and Homs have risen – from from two to three in previous months to seven to eight a month now, he said. And staff and patients have difficulty reaching healthcare facilities due to deepening insecurity.

“The most frequently observed injuries are burns, gunshots and injuries from explosions. Shortages of ointments for burns and equipment and supplies for anaesthesia and surgical interventions have been reported,” said Mr Jasarevic.

Humanitarian situation

Sanctions were limiting availability of some health supplies in the country, where pharmaceutical production virtually halted months ago, according to the UN agency whose officials visited the Damascus hospital last week.

Serious bread and fuel shortages were also worsening across the country, officials from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP)said at the same briefing.

“The humanitarian situation is grave ... but we continuing to deliver supplies to warehouses,” said WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs.

Shortages of wheat flour have been reported in most parts of the country due to damage to mills, most of which are in the divided northern city of Aleppo, as well as lack of fuel for delivery, road closures and difficult access, she said.

WFP rations are reaching some 1.5 million people in Syria per month, but the Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimates that 2.5 million are actually in need of food assistance, Byrs said.

However, the WFP is unable to boost assistance due to a lack of aid partners on the ground and challenges in reaching some of the hardest-hit areas, she said.

UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos briefed the UN Security Council on Monday after visiting Damascus. She said that she had asked the Syrian government to allow fuel to be imported for aid and requested that an additional 10 aid groups be allowed access.