Washington, DC – The evacuation process of people in the besieged area of Aleppo began on Thursday, December 15, as over 6500 have been successfully evacuated from the area. Saturday, efforts were delayed as several violations occurred and evacuees were sent back to Aleppo. There are an estimated 50,000 people still trapped in the area, as extreme cold settles in. UOSSM estimates that there are at least 100 patients in need of immediate medical care; at least 10,000 children, and 5000 elderly men and women, many with chronic illnesses, with no access to medications and medical care.
People have no fresh water, no electricity, and nothing to provide warmth as they are exposed to the severe cold. Many have left their homes and are sleeping in the streets in freezing weather, and now it is snowing. There is no more wood to burn to keep the stranded people warm.
Three people died awaiting evacuation, the first victim was a newborn baby that had birth defects and required ICU. A surgical nurse and midwife performed an emergency caesarean section, the mother survived, but medics were unable to do anything to save her baby’s life without proper medical intervention and equipment. The second victim was a young man who developed an infection from a wound in his knee, the infection required intravenous antibiotics. Due to the lack of medications and proper medical care, the young man went into septic shock, efforts to revive him failed and the young man died. The third victim was a child who died from the extreme cold weather.
After waiting for almost two days a convoy of five buses finally reached the evacuation meeting point late Sunday night, after being held at a checkpoint for almost nine hours. There were over 300 evacuees including many women and children. UOSSM Safety and Security Director, Dr. Ahmad Dbis, spoke with several children who said, while at the checkpoint, in the extreme cold, they did not have any food, water, blankets, and were not even allowed to leave the buses to use the restroom; child protection teams have been following up with children and their families once settled.
UOSSM is calling upon the international Community, United Nations Security Council, and General Assembly, to immediately authorize the integration of international observers in the humanitarian convoys performing the evacuation efforts from besieged Eastern Aleppo, Fuaa, Kefriah, Madaya and Zabadani, and to protect civilians against the risk of hostilities and violations during the evacuation process.
Dr. Khaula Sawah, CEO of UOSSM USA said, “Over 14 NGOs and Emergency Ambulance Systems have been involved in the evacuation of besieged Eastern Aleppo. UOSSM was among those NGOs, which deployed 26 ambulances, and over 195 UOSSM staff and volunteers in the evacuation process, our Safety and Security Director, along with other assistants, was assigned as the focal point for the coordination of evacuation to ensure proper triage of patients to designated hospitals and evacuation of people to safety sites. “
Dr. Sawah added, “The Syrian people are facing some of the worst conditions since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. Over 60,000 people have been besieged for over 100 days, exposed to the worst living conditions, with relentless military bombardment on the small, besieged area; now they are facing severe cold weather and snow. Despite repeated promises, only a small percentage have been evacuated so far, and the process has been compromised several times causing a state of panic, mistrust and fear. We are calling upon the International Community and UN Security Council to send international monitors to oversee the process and ensure the proper evacuation of the besieged people and guarantee their safety”.