UN says it mistakenly sent expired biscuits to Syrians
24 October 2015, 17:43
Damascus, Syria — The United Nations said Saturday it had mistakenly sent hundreds of boxes of expired biscuits to besieged civilians in rebel-held areas near Damascus as part of a relief convoy earlier this month.
A total of 320 out of 650 boxes of high energy biscuits sent to Zabadani and Madaya on Oct. 18 had expired a month earlier.
"We can confirm that this was the result of an unfortunate human error during the loading process," Yacoub El Hillo, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, said in a statement Saturday.
He said the U.N. Syria team is taking the issue "very seriously" and working with its humanitarian partners to rectify the situation, but added that medical sources had confirmed that eating the expired biscuits would pose no health threats.
The aid convoy that went into Zabadani and Madaya was a rare instance of assistance reaching besieged areas near Damascus during a cease-fire between Syrian government forces and their allies and insurgents.
The U.N. statement came after concerns were raised that children consuming the expired biscuits could become sick.
El Hillo said the U.N. has sent a request to all parties involved, including the Syrian government, to facilitate immediate access to the areas to replace the biscuits and allow medical personnel to examine and treat potential patients.
Meanwhile, World Health Organization officials said no new polio cases have been reported in the Middle East for more than 18 months despite continuing conflict, declining immunization rates and mass population displacement, leading experts to believe an outbreak has been successfully halted.
The outbreak which officials say paralyzed 36 children in Syria and two in Iraq between October 2013 and April 2014 prompted fears of a major epidemic and followed by the largest ever immunization response in the history of the Middle East.