UPDATE 2-Wounded, starving crowd ill-equipped Damascus hospital

Stephanie Nebehay
Reuters Middle East

* Increasing numbers of women and children among wounded

* Sanctions leading to shortages of medical supplies - WHO

* Growing bread and fuel shortages across Syria, WFP says

GENEVA, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Wounded and starving Syrians,

many of them women and children, are crowding into Damascus's

main hospital where medical supplies are increasingly short,

World Health Organization (WHO) officials told a U.N. news

briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

As the civil war escalates around the capital, doctors are

treating up to 100 injured a day at the 400-bed Damascus

Hospital and have had to use local anaesthetics even for

complicated operations, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

Cases of severe acute malnutrition in children being

referred to the hospital from rural Damascus, Deir al-Zor,

Hassakeh, Deraa and Homs have risen to 7-8 a month from 2-3 in

previous months, he said, and staff and patients have difficulty

reaching health care facilities due to deepening insecurity.

"The most frequently observed injuries are burns, gunshots

and injuries from explosions. Shortages of ointments for burns

and equipment and supplies for anaesthesia and surgical

interventions have been reported," said Jasarevic.

Sanctions were limiting availability of some health

supplies in the country, where pharmaceutical production

virtually halted months ago, according to the U.N. agency whose

officials visited the Damascus Hospital last week.

Serious bread and fuel shortages were also worsening across

the country, officials from the U.N.'s World Food Programme said

at the same briefing.

"The humanitarian situation is grave and we have access

difficulties. Distributions have slowed down but we continuing

to deliver supplies to warehouses," WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth

Byrs told reporters, a day before an inter-agency funding appeal

due to be launched for Syria in 2013.

"Long queues in front of bakeries are now the norm in many

parts of Syria," she said.

Shortages of wheat flour have been reported in most parts of

the country due to the damage to mills, most of which are in the

divided northern city of Aleppo, as well as lack of fuel for

delivery, road closures and difficult access, she said.

WFP rations are reaching some 1.5 million people in Syria

per month, but the Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimates that 2.5

million are actually in need of food assistance, Byrs said.

However, the WFP is unable to boost assistance due to a lack

of aid partners on the ground and challenges in reaching some of

the hardest-hit areas, she said.

For the first time in many months, it was able to distribute

rations in difficult-to-reach areas near the Turkish border

including rebel-controlled Ras el Ain and Tal Abyad, she said.

Attacks on WFP-rented trucks had increased in the last few

weeks with 10 acts of theft and confiscation of trucks by

unknown armed groups reported since October, Byrs said.

U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos briefed the U.N.

Security Council on Monday after visiting Damascus on Saturday.

She told reporters that she had asked the Syrian government to

urgently allow fuel to be imported for aid operations and

requested that an additional 10 aid groups be allowed access.

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