The UN has airdropped its first humanitarian aid in Syria's government-controlled city of Deir-al Zour with an aim to alleviate the suffering civilians. The UN aid chief confirmed the delivery was successful and reached the targeted area.
Up to 21 tonnes of relief materials, including food items and medical supplies, were dropped by a UN plane, relief chief Stephen O'Brien told the UN Security Council. The airdrop was adopted as a desperate measure as ground personnel are unable to reach places where there is a chronic food shortage.
Aid agencies estimate as many as 500,000 Syrians are currently under siege and many of them are suspected to be starving. In Deir al-Zour, the UN says close to 200,000 people are under siege. The eastern Syrian city had a population of nearly 240,000 residents before it was gripped by the conflict.
"A WFP plane dropped the first cargo of 21 tonnes of items into Deir al-Zour. We have received initial reports from the SARC team on the ground that pallets have landed in the target area as planned," said O'Brien. The delivery was later confirmed by Arab Red Crescent, which has a ground presence in the area.
O'Brien admitted that the relief agency adopted "this approach as a last resort" due to the limitations that aid deliveries were unable to reach the needy via ground. The warring sides — troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, rebel forces and the Islamic State (Isis) — have blocked road access to the region.
Aid agencies are gearing up to deliver more relief materials across Syria as the ceasefire — brokered by the US and Russia — is set to come into force on 26 February midnight. Key forces, including the IS and al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front — both groups which are active in many regions across Syria — are not, however, part of the temporary truce arrangement.