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UN to Deliver More Aid to Madaya, Other Besieged Syrian Cities

  • Lisa Schlein

Syrians wait for the arrival of an aid convoy, Jan. 11, 2016, in the besieged town of Madaya as part of a landmark six-month deal reached in September for an end to hostilities in those areas in exchange for humanitarian assistance.

Syrians wait for the arrival of an aid convoy, Jan. 11, 2016, in the besieged town of Madaya as part of a landmark six-month deal reached in September for an end to hostilities in those areas in exchange for humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations says it expects agencies to deliver more aid this week to tens of thousands of starving people in Madaya and other besieged Syrian cities.

The International Red Cross and several U.N. agencies in a first convoy of 47 trucks delivered food and medical supplies Monday to 40,000 inhabitants of Madaya, which is besieged by pro-government forces.

In a parallel operation, international aid also was brought to 20,000 people in the rebel-held northern Syrian towns of Fouaa and Kfarya in Idlib Province. The United Nations says it is planning to send more aid this week to these three places and the besieged town of Zabadani, which neighbors Madaya.

Locations of Fuaa, Kafraya, and Madaya, Syria

Locations of Fuaa, Kafraya, and Madaya, Syria

A spokesman for the U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, says 4.5 million people are living in hard to reach places in Syria.

“Almost 400,000 people in Syria are trapped in areas besieged by the various parties to the conflict," he said. "The use of siege and starvation as a method of war has become routine and systematic, with complete disregard for civilian life.”

Representative for the U.N. refugee agency in Syria, Sajjid Malik, traveled on the first convoy to reach Madaya. By telephone from Damascus, he describes his horror at seeing so many starving people fighting for survival in the freezing cold.

“People around us who were shivering, who were very frail, very weak," he said. "You could see that they are malnourished, not only the kids, but also young and the youth that were around the trucks that we were offloading ... Most of them had not had bread, rice or vegetables or fruit for months.”

A convoy consisting of Red Cross, Red Crescent and United Nation gather before heading towards Madaya from Damascus, and to al Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 11, 2016.

A convoy consisting of Red Cross, Red Crescent and United Nation gather before heading towards Madaya from Damascus, and to al Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 11, 2016.

Malik is calling for the sieges on Madaya and other hard to reach places in Syria to be lifted. He says it is critical for humanitarian agencies to have access to the communities so aid can be delivered on a regular basis and not once every few months.

Without sustained support he says the present humanitarian operation to Madaya will just be a band-aid, because within a matter of days people will start running out of food and medicine.

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