As civilians flee Syrian enclave, UN assesses aid needs


United Nations (United States) (AFP)

The United Nations is trying to determine how many people have fled the besieged rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta in Syria, a UN spokesman said Thursday amid reports of a massive exodus.

The non-governmental Syrian Human Rights Observatory said that more than 20,000 people have fled Eastern Ghouta, where the town of Hummriyeh which fell Thursday to Syrian government forces.

"The actual number of people who have exited Eastern Ghouta is not known, as is the destinations of all evacuees," deputy UN spokesman Farhan Aziz Haq said.

"The UN has not observed the evacuations, but is visiting collective shelters where some of the evacuees are arriving," he said.

He said they were trying to assess the needs of the shelters, including the Dwier collective center where the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is aiding refugee families.

The World Health Organization is sending in hospital beds, medical equipment and medicine to the center which has medical facilities, water and electricity, he said.

An aid convoy delivered food to some 26,000 people trapped in Douma, the main city in the besieged enclave, he said.

"However, much more is needed, including medical and health supplies, for people in need in Douma and [humanitarian] assistance throughout eastern Ghouta," Haq said.

The enclave on the outskirts of Damascus has been under seige by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad for five years.

Air strikes, rocket fire and shells have slammed into Ghouta for nearly a month as the Syrian army pressed an offensive against the rebels.