Last updated: 7 August, 2012

Syria needs more medicines and food aid

Syrians are in urgent need of life-saving medicines following an escalation in fighting, which also threatens further food shortages, UN agencies warned on Tuesday.

“The recent escalation of clashes has resulted in substantial damage to the pharmaceutical plants located in rural Aleppo, Homs and rural Damascus,” said World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

A lack of raw materials, sanctions and increased fuel costs are also having an impact on the country which until recently produced 90 percent of its own medicines, Jasarevic added.

“Urgently needed medicines include drugs for tuberculosis, hepatitis, hypertension, diabetes and cancer,” said Jasarevic, adding that patients with kidney disease needed blood screening tests.

In addition to the lack of medicines, many hospitals and health centres are also closed as a result of the fighting, while rising fuel costs are preventing travel by health workers, he said.

“We are bringing in medical supplies… but this cannot cover the needs of a big country and cannot cover the gap of pharmaceutical centres that have shut down,” said Jasarevic.

He said WHO had distributed medical aid to 700,000 people in Syria.

Some 1.5 million people in rural areas also need food assistance in the next three to six months, “especially in the areas that have seen the greatest conflict and displacement”, said the World Food Programme.

Fighting in rural parts of Damascus, Homs, Hama, Deir Ezzor and Aleppo meant that the agency had distributed aid to around 540,000 people in July, whereas its target was 850,000, said WFP spokeswoman Elizabeth Byers.

Close to one million people also need crop and livestock assistance, she said, and three million are likely to need food aid by the end of the year.

Strategic crops such as wheat and barley had been hit by the conflict, as well as cherry, olive and vegetable production, according to the WFP.

The WFP also said in needs more funds for aid. The shortfall of the agency’s Syria operation came to almost $59 million (48 million euros) out of $103 million needed, the WFP statement said.