Humanitarian aid has reached besieged areas of Syria after trucks filled with supplies left Damascus, as the United Nations said a taskforce seeking humanitarian access throughout the conflict-torn country will meet on Thursday in Geneva.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Yacoub el-Hillo, said in a press release that on Wednesday night the UN reached five towns in urgent need of assistance.
“The convoys contained life-saving aid including food, medical supplies and equipment, vaccines, water and sanitation items for almost 100,000 people in need of aid,” Hillo said.
At least 100 trucks rolled out of the capital on Wednesday afternoon in the latest delivery of supplies to trapped residents, said Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria.
“Undoubtedly this is progress for the thousands trapped in these besieged areas,” Khodr said.
The Syrian Red Crescent was co-ordinating with the UN on the aid deliveries.
— Syrian Red Crescent (@SYRedCrescent) February 17, 2016
About 35 vehicles later arrived in Moadimayet al-Sham, a rebel-held town near Damascus encircled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six trucks also entered al-Fouaa and Kafraya – two towns under siege by the government since 2012.
Another 50 aid vehicles arrived in Madaya and Zabadani, two other government-besieged towns near Damascus.
Doctors Without Borders said that at least 35 people had died of starvation in Madaya alone since the beginning of December 2015, with more than 250 people suffering from severe malnutrition.
The Syrian government approved access to seven besieged areas, the UN said after crisis talks in Damascus on Tuesday, a week before a planned resumption of peace talks between Syria’s warring parties.
The UN has demanded unhindered access to all besieged areas of the country, where it says hundreds of thousands of people are trapped by fighting and deliberate blockades by Syria’s various warring sides.
The UN is struggling to deliver aid to about 4.5 million Syrians who live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in besieged areas.
The fighting in Syria started as an unarmed uprising against Assad in March 2011, but has since expanded into a full-on conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people, according to UN estimates.