10 February 2014 – The World Health Organization (WHO) started this week to deliver medicines, vaccine and medical supplies to north-east Syria by chartered flights from the capital Damascus.
A first plane, loaded with 40 tonnes of medical supplies, landed on Saturday at Quamishli airport in Al Hasakah governorate. With an additional 80 tonnes that are expected to arrive in the coming days aboard two flights, WHO is providing medical supplies for more than 335 000 beneficiaries.
Medicines for chronic and infectious diseases, including skin diseases, as well as medical supplies needed to treat patients with injuries, are being distributed to health authorities and nongovernmental organizations providing health services.
Overseen by the WHO focal point based in Al Hasakah, life-saving supplies are foreseen to also reach Al Shaddah, an area that has not received medical supplies for two years.
“In the past three years, we tried many times to send supplies to Al Hasakah governorate by land, but insecurity along the road often prevented or significantly delayed shipments from reaching the destination,” says Elisabeth Hoff, WHO Representative in Syria, “Chartering planes permits timely delivery of life-saving medical supplies to the north-east of the country.”
There has been an alarming decrease in the local production of medicines since March 2011, together with a dramatic devaluation of the Syrian Pound, resulting in a 25%–50% increase in the price of medicines.
Al Hasakah region, with 1.4 million people, was an under-resourced area prior to the conflict in Syria, and has been particularly affected by the violence. Medicine shortages, compounded by greatly reduced access to clean water, caused an outbreak of diarrhoea last summer.
In 2013, WHO reached over 6 million people across Syria with medicines, supplies and equipment.