Aid convoy finally reaches besieged Syrian town of Madaya after dozens starved to death

On 11 January 2016, workers in a warehouse prepare supplies for a humanitarian convoy destined for the besieged Syrian town of Madaya. Video Capture UNICEF

DAMASCUS – A humanitarian convoy has finally reached the besieged Syrian town of Madaya with life-saving health and food supplies from the United Nations and its partners for the 42,000 desperate residents after reports of people starving to death under encirclement by pro-Government forces.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria Yacoub El Hillo said Monday it has taken long and patient negotiations with many parties to facilitate the convoy, whose first trucks are now being unloaded to start relieving a situation that UN officials last week called “horrendous…ghastly,” noting that deliberate starvation of civilians amounts to war crimes.

At the same time trucks have left Damascus for Kafraya and Foah, two towns under siege by opposition forces, where the inhabitants are also in desperate need as the war between the Government and a whole spectrum of rebel forces approaches the start of its sixth year. 

The inter-agency convoy to Madaya brought life-saving items, including health, nutrition and food supplies, blankets, shelter materials, and soap for the people. The non-government group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has said 23 people starved to death in the town in December, six of them children, and people trying to leave have been reported to have been killed. 

Mr. Hillo noted that while there is much focus on Madaya, where the situation requires an immediate response, the UN and its humanitarian partners are equally concerned about the 4.5 million people living in besieged and hard-to-reach area across Syria. 

“We continue to call on all parties to the conflict to facilitate sustained and unimpeded access to all people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria,” he stressed.

Madaya, located about 25km northwest of Damascus and 11km from the border with Lebanon, has been besieged by pro-Assad forces and allied Lebanese Shia militia of Hezbollah since July. 

At least 25 civilians died of starvation in Madaya last week, Medecins Sans Frontieres confirmed. 

According to reports, more than 4.5 million people in Syria live in hard-to-reach areas, where civilians have no access to humanitarian aid.

Reporting by: Laila Majdalawi


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