March 20, 2018 / 11:01 AM / 2 years ago

U.N. seeks access to Syria's Ghouta and Afrin as needs grow

Smoke rises during evacuation in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations called on Tuesday for full access to civilians inside and outside of Syria’s eastern Ghouta to meet their urgent needs, after some 50,000 have fled in recent days.

Another 104,000 are estimated to have been uprooted by fighting around the northern town of Afrin, where 10,000 are stranded nearby trying to cross into areas controlled by the Syrian government, the U.N. refugee agency said.

“The UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, is alarmed at a further deepening of the humanitarian crisis in Syria as fierce fighting in eastern Ghouta, rural Damascus and Afrin causes massive new displacement,” UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a Geneva briefing. “These people left with nothing and they need essentially everything from clothes to shelter.”

About 70 percent of the 50,000 evacuated from eastern Ghouta are women and children and many children are suffering diarrhoea and respiratory ailments which can be deadly, as well as scabies and lice, UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said.

UNICEF estimates that about 100,000 people are still inside Afrin district, half of whom are children, she added.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Tom Miles

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