The regime in Damascus will now allow the World Health Organization (WHO) to deliver medical supplies to opposition-held parts of Syria previously off limits to aid workers, including the country's second city of Aleppo.
WHO Syria representative Elizabeth Hoff said on Monday that the organization would be allowed to deliver medicines, vaccines and surgical supplies to Aleppo Governorate, the blockaded Damascus district of Moudamiya, and nearby flashpoint Eastern Ghouta.
Government troops prohibit aid deliveries to territory controlled by groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, while rebels also typically refuse to allow supplies into government-held areas.
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Hoff said the WHO had held "top-level meetings" with Syrian government officials to negotiate the agreements. "There has been a willingness from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We see a positive outlook," Hoff told Reuters. "We have had some constraints in the past with delivering surgical supplies, syringes, but the situation is much better at the moment." She added that the first deliveries could begin within a few days.
Around 28 metric tons of supplies are planned to be supplied to opposition-controlled towns around Aleppo and an additional 102 metric tons sent to Moudamiya and Eastern Ghouta, the WHO told AFP.
The humanitarian crisis situation in Syria is dire, particularly in difficult to access areas, which are home to around 4.7 million people, according to the UN. Over 241,000 residents are completely besieged by either government troops or armed opposition groups.
Aleppo has been hit by some of the worst fighting of the war and is currently split between the Syrian army and rebel forces. The city and its surrounding areas have proven particularly hard to reach for aid groups as a result.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has proposed a temporary local ceasefire in the northern city to allow the delivery of badly needed aid. However, recent gains by government troops are threatening to cut off vital supply lines running from the Turkish border into opposition-controlled areas, so there may little impetus for Assad to make a deal.
At least 200,000 people have now died since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 and more than nine million have been forced to flee their homes.
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