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UN launches aid delivery to 650,000 Syrians

December 10, 2018


Serjilla (Syria): Maya Merhi holds her prosthetic legs.—AFP
Serjilla (Syria): Maya Merhi holds her prosthetic legs.—AFP

AMMAN: The United Nations said on Sunday it began delivering aid to hundreds of thousands of Syrians through the Jaber-Nassib border crossing with Jordan, which reopened two months ago.

In total, “369 trucks carrying 11,200 metric tons of ... assistance for over 650,000 people” will be involved in the four-week operation, the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said.

The “exceptional” delivery, which amounts to one-month’s worth of aid, would be carried out by six UN agencies and one international NGO, it added.

“This is a major logistical operation in an effort to mitigate the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Anders Pedersen, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jordan.

Among the immediate needs of Syrians were food, shelter, water and medical care, according to OCHA.

“We are working closely with our UN partners inside Syria to ensure this assistance reaches those who need it most,” Pedersen added.

Syrian regime forces retook control of the border crossing from rebels in July. Known as Jaber on the Jordanian side and Nassib in Syria, the crossing is a key Middle East trade route and its reopening in October after a three-year closure was seen as a boon for the economies of both countries.

Syria’s civil war has killed more than 360,000 people since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011. More than half the country’s 23 million people have fled, with 6.6 million of those internally displaced and more than 5.6 million going abroad, according to UN figures.

Syrian girl born without legs walks on new prosthetics

Eight-year-old Maya Merhi had to struggle around a Syrian displaced persons camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.

But now the girl, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, is walking on new prosthetics after undergoing treatment in Turkey.

Pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria, were seen around the world in June, and she was taken to Istanbul for the life-changing procedure.

Dressed in a pink sweater and matching shoes, Maya was able for the first time to walk along the rutted roads of the Serjilla camp after arriving back.

Finally she joined in the games and dancing with the other children.

“I was so happy when I saw her walking,” says her father Mohammed, sitting in their makeshift tent. “The whole family and all our loved ones were so happy.”

Mohammed suffers the same condition as his daughter, known as congenital amputation which means the person is born without lower limbs. He cobbled together the homemade prosthetics on which she used to shuffle around the camp.

Originally from Aleppo region, the father and daughter had to move to rebel-held Idlib province as fighting from Syria’s civil war began to rage around their home.

After the pictures of Maya’s difficulties sparked attention across the globe, the Turkish Red Crescent intervened. The father and daughter were evacuated from Syria by the Turkish authorities and brought to Istanbul for treatment at a specialised clinic.

Mohammed received prosthetic limbs as well, but admits that he isn’t yet as steady on them as his daughter.

Sitting on a foam mattress, his dau­ghter unwraps the artificial legs and attaches them. “To begin with there were difficulties getting used to them,” says her uncle Hussein, who accompanied his brother and niece to Turkey.

“All of a sudden she found herself up high on the new prosthetics.”

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018