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  • Desperately needed medicines and medical supplies have reached the besieged Syrian town of Douma for the first time in a year and a half, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

    The United Nations' health agency said two of its trucks loaded with medical supplies had been part of an aid convoy that reached the rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus province on Saturday.

    "It was the first time medical help had reached Douma since the siege of the area began in November 2012," WHO said in a statement.

    The convoy, organised by a range of UN agencies and the Syrian Red Crescent, also brought food and other aid items into the town, which was hit by two air strikes during the aid distribution, activists said.

    The Geneva-based WHO said its staff members had gone in with the convoy and spoken to doctors in the town, where local residents have long suffered food and medical shortages.

    Nearly half of Douma's 50,000 inhabitants are in need of medical assistance, "including urgent surgical care and life-saving treatments," the agency said, pointing out that surgeons in the town had been forced to perform operations "under extremely difficult circumstances".

    The broader East Ghouta area in rural Damascus governorate has only seven functioning hospitals for a population of one million, it said.

    "Across Rural Damascus governorate as a whole, there is only one operational public hospital for every 567,200 people," WHO said.

    [AFP]
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