BEIRUT -- More than 400 patients on a UN list waiting for evacuations from a siege in Syria were left behind on Friday as the Red Cross said it had finished transferring just 29 people and their families to Damascus for medical care.
It took the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent three days to evacuate the patients and their family members from the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus to hospitals just minutes away, underscoring the degree to which authorities have obstructed basic relief work in the war-torn country.
The UN submitted a list of names to the government six months ago of patients requiring evacuation from the government's siege of the suburbs of its own capital because they were suffering from war wounds, kidney failure, and malnutrition. In November, UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said the list had reached 494 names, and 12 patients had died waiting for care. The UN's children's agency said more than 100 children require evacuation.
The government, which has besieged the eastern Ghouta suburbs with varying degrees of severity since 2013 in response to a revolt against President Bashar Assad's rule, refused to allow any evacuations until this week. Food stores and medical supplies have dried up under the blockade.