BEIRUT – The United Nations children's agency says the worst malnutrition rate since the start of the Syria conflict nearly seven years ago has been recorded in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, besieged since mid-2013.
Nearly half of the 400,000 people trapped in eastern Ghouta suburb, northeast of Damascus, are believed to be children, according to UNICEF.
The U.N. agency says Thursday a survey it conducted in the area in November found 11.9 percent of children under age 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition, a rise from only 2.1 percent according to a similar study in January.
UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere called for the lifting of the government-imposed siege.
The humanitarian call comes as U.N.-sponsored peace talks are underway in Geneva. The talks aim to bring the opposition and government face-to-face.