Starving Syrians finally given a flicker of hope
Aid convoys arrive at besieged town of Madaya
Two aid convoys have now arrived in a week at the besieged rebel-held Syrian town of Madaya, following reports of people of all ages starving to death in the area.
On Thursday evening, the first six of 40 lorries, carrying wheat, flour and medical supplies entered the dilapidated town.
The United Nations chief, Ban Ki-moon, said that it was a war crime to use starvation tactics and it was vital the innocent civilians were attended to.
He said: “I would say they are being held hostage, but it is even worse. Hostages get fed.”
He said the images of emaciated civilians in Madaya, which sparked worldwide shock and condemnation, reflected a new low in the five-year war.
The UN reports that 40,000 people are living in horrifying conditions in Madaya, which is surrounded by government forces.
The situation in Foah and Kefraya in the Idlib province, where 20,000 people are trapped, is said to be similarly grim.
Lorries from the UN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Syrian Arab Red Crescent reached Madaya on Thursday afternoon, carrying 120 tonnes of flour, as well as medical supplies, clothing and blankets.
Between 300 and 400 residents of Madaya are said to be severely malnourished. The convoy includes a nutritionist and health teams to assess the level of starvation.
The UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, told reporters: “We do not want to see this as a one-off. Ultimately the real solution to this predicament, to the plight of the people besieged in these towns, is for the siege to be lifted.”
French charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says a total of 28 people - including six babies - have died of starvation at a clinic it supports in Madaya since 1st December. However, Hezbollah denies there have been any deaths in the town.
On Friday, a security council meeting requested by the US, Britain and France is expected to be to discuss the plight of 400,000 Syrians living under siege in the country.
Starvation sieges have been used repeatedly by the government of Bashar al-Assad during the war. Reports suggest he hopes to win back the countryside around the capital of Damascus and in turn take it out of rebel hands.