The Unfolding Humanitarian Catastrophe in Eastern Ghouta

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© AMER ALMOHIBANY / AFP / Getty Images

Escalation of Attacks

Last updated: 6 April 2018 // New update from inside Eastern Ghouta

The Syrian government and its ally Russia have escalated a bombing campaign in Eastern Ghouta, an area in the Damascus Countryside home to 400,000 civilians. The attacks have left several hundreds dead and thousands injured since January 2018. This comes after six years of a cruel siege where Syrians have been trapped in a daily barrage of attacks to deliberately kill and maim them. The relentless bombing of Eastern Ghouta constitutes a flagrant war crime.

On 24 February, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted on a much-delayed resolution calling for humanitarian aid into Eastern Ghouta and a partial ceasefire. While this is a welcome development, starving civilians awaiting life-saving assistance and protection from deliberate bombardment should not have to wait on a UNSC resolution or ceasefire.

On 25 February, reports emerged of a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta.

On 2 March, an audio update from inside Eastern Ghouta.

On 22 March, alleged Russian air strike using an incendiary weapon burned to death 37 civilians – mainly women and children – hiding in an air-raid shelter in the Syrian town of Arbin.

Pediatrician, 16 February 2018
The situation in Eastern Ghouta is worse than words can say [...] a shame to humanity.

Tell the Syrian Government and Russia to stop bombing people in

Eastern Ghouta

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Smoke billows following Syrian government bombardments on Kafr Batna, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 22, 2018. Smoke billows following Syrian government bombardments on Kafr Batna, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 22, 2018.
Smoke billows following Syrian government bombardments on Kafr Batna, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 22, 2018. © AMER ALMOHIBANY / AFP / Getty Images
A Syrian man carries a wounded kid at a field hospital after war planes belonging to Assad Regime carried out airstrikes at the residential areas of Kafr Batna town which is a de-escalation zone of the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus in Syria on February 18, 2018. A Syrian man carries a wounded kid at a field hospital after war planes belonging to Assad Regime carried out airstrikes at the residential areas of Kafr Batna town which is a de-escalation zone of the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus in Syria on February 18, 2018.
© Khaled Akasha / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The Siege

In February 2017, the Syrian government captured the areas of al-Qaboun and Barze, which border the Harasta neighbourhood of Eastern Ghouta, and closed all smuggling tunnels that had for years guaranteed a minimum flow of food, water, and medical supplies. On 3 October, the Syrian government further tightened the siege by closing the last remaining entry point to Douma, the al-Wafideen checkpoint, impeding access to medical and humanitarian aid and barring civilian movement. Only five aid convoys have been allowed in since October, but all were significantly understocked to address the humanitarian needs of the population, and all medical supplies were removed by the government. Since October, the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta has significantly deteriorated with prices of medicine and basic food supplies, like milk and bread, skyrocketing.

On 11 March, The Syrian government advanced into Eastern Ghouta splitting the area into three besieged enclaves: Douma, Harasta and Middle Sector encompassing several neighbourhoods and towns- prohibiting the movement of civilians from one sector to the other.

There are no humanitarian corridors. It was always a sham. Are they really expecting us to believe that they will keep us safe? The same government that shelled us and attacked us, will now protect us?
Abd, resident of Douma in Eastern Ghouta

Since 22 March, 13,000 fighters, their families and others have been evacuated from Harasta, Zamalka, Arbin and Ain Tarma to Idleb and Hama after Russia reached a deal with Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement and Faylaq al-Rahman. As of 23 March, Douma remains the last pocket besieged by the Syrian government with negotiations ongoing and around 400 people already evacuated on 1 April.

In numbers

70,000

people besieged in Douma

1600+

civilians killed in 2018

22

hospitals attacked

A Humanitarian Crisis

Doctors and medical workers are unable to provide adequate medical care to the injured and ill due to lack of adequate surgical supplies, medical equipment and medicine, particularly for treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. As a result, doctors are using expired medicine from destroyed hospitals. There has additionally been a rise in cases of acute malnutrition, especially in children, exacerbated by the lack of access to food, humanitarian aid, and other life-saving necessities.

Watch testimonies from inside the siege:

Mother of 4-year-old Rama Helwi, whose daughter has throat and nose cancer

Hajji Bahgat Dayy, 76 and in urgent need of medical attention 

ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP/Getty Images

Rama Helwi’s mother on 19 Feb 2018
THE CANCEROUS TUMORS IN HER THROAT ARE MULTIPLYING. I SWEAR TO YOU, SHE SPENDS DAYS WITH NO FOOD. SHE NEEDS SURGERY. SHE NEEDS CHEMOTHERAPY. WE NEED THE WORLD TO HAVE MERCY ON US AND OUR CHILDREN.
© Mohammed Al Shami / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Syria’s Eastern Ghouta: They Fight for Life. We Fight for Them.

Read the blog

Stop the bombing of people in Eastern Ghouta Syria

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, is bombing its own people in Eastern Ghouta. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds injured in the past month.

This is not new for the people of Eastern Ghouta: people who’ve been trapped in a cruel siege for nearly six years are now being attacked daily, killed and maimed by their government. Children and elderly people are dying of malnutrition and lack of medication.

Tell the Syrian and Russian governments to end the attacks and lift the siege on Eastern Ghouta immediately.

The attacks must be stopped. Humanitarian aid must be allowed into Eastern Ghouta.

We succeeded in creating pressure and noise around the world for Aleppo – and we can succeed in helping the people under attack in Eastern Ghouta.

A Deliberate Strategy of Forced Displacement

Amnesty International has documented the Syrian Government's strategy of sieges, bombings, and evacuations in Syrian cities before