Siege and starvation end in Madaya, says UN

UN official announces siege and starvation have ended in Syrian town of Madaya after relief works

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Syrians wait on the outskirts of the besieged rebel-held Syrian town of Madaya, on January 11, 2016, after being evacuated from the town

Siege and starvation have left Syrian town of Madaya, near the Lebanese border, a UN official who arrived there announced on Tuesday.

On Monday, vehicles from the Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived in Madaya  from Damascus in which thousands of civilians have been starving to death because of a siege by Syrian regime forces.

Sajjad Malik, the UN refugee agency's chief in Damascus, informed journalists a day after travelling the rebel-held city and stated that there is “very grim” atmosphere. Because, “there is no life, the situation is horrible. There is no food, no light, no heating with low temperatures."

"There is no comparison in what we saw in Madaya,"  he said.

The former mountain resort, besieged since last summer by forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad, came to international attention in recent weeks as reports of starvation emerged and activists shared images of emaciated children and old men widely on social media.

Malik reported he saw many shivering, undernourished kids and young adults, saying "most of them had not had bread or rice or vegetables or fruit for months."

A kilogram of rice would sell in the city from $300 (275 euros), and such that one person bought 5 kilos of rice in exchange for a motorcycle, he said.

The United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Yacoub el Hillo, also told reporters from Damascus the claims related to starvation was not exaggerated.

"It is true. We saw people who are severely malnourished, especially children. We saw people extremely thin, skeleton, that are now barely moving," he said.

"They are demanding the international community do all it can to lift sieges wherever they are found ... Wherever siege is being used as a tactic in the conflict, it should not continue."

UN aid chief officer, Stephen O’Brien made a statement on Monday that aid workers found at least 400 Syrians suffering from starvation, malnourishment and other sicknesses during a visit to a hospital in Madaya.

O'Brien added, "They are in grave peril of losing their lives...The UN has asked Syrian regime and rebel groups controlling access to the town to allow the 400 Syrians to be taken out of Madaya."

Meanwhile, nearly 300 civilians, mostly women and children, who left the city and then transported to Assad regime-run temporary shelters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an opposition group, said the civilians had separately evacuated Madaya in control of regime forces.

Since December 1, at least 28 have starved to death, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The Syrian conflict, which will enter its fifth year in early 2016, has left more than 260,000 people dead and turned the country into the world's largest source of refugees and displaced persons, according to the UN.

Over eight million victims are internally displaced and about 4.4 million have fled the country since the conflict started.

TRTWorld and agencies