Volunteers unload the first batch of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines at Bab Al Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey in rebel-held northwestern Idlib on Wednesday. AFP
Syria's last rebel-held enclave received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday, with a refrigerated truck offloading over 50,000 United Nations-secured jabs in the overcrowded province.
The delivery came hours before a bigger shipment was expected to arrive in the capital Damascus for inoculations in government-controlled areas.
The first batch of vaccines comes as the war-torn country experiences a new surge in infections, overwhelming hospitals already reeling from conflict and deteriorating health care services.
The AstraZeneca vaccines were delivered to rebel-controlled Idlib province through a border crossing with Turkey, the northwestern territory's only gateway to the outside world.
Idlib health official Yasser Najib said 53,800 jabs were provided through the UN-led COVAX programme for the world's poorest nations.
Given Syria’s ongoing conflict, vaccine delivery is divided - the majority going through Damascus for government-held areas and the rest through the border with Turkey.
The UN will go through Damascus to deliver over 200,000 jabs to cover government-held areas and Kurdish-dominated territory in the northeast.
The rebel-held region, home to 4 million people, is seeing a new rise in infections.
The area houses over 2 million displaced persons who live in tent camps and temporary housing.
While fighting has largely subsided, occasional military operations still violate a cease-fire that has been in place since March 2020.
A Turkish convoy loaded with munitions crossed into northwest Syria on Monday, to help insurgents fighting a government advance in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Syrian state media said.
At least 45 other people were wounded in the air raid that hit “a wholesale vegetable market in the town of Maaret al-Numan” in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syrian regime bombardment has killed 14 civilians including seven children in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said on Saturday, in the latest deadly raids on the embattled opposition bastion.
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