In a siege of the Syrian town of Madaya near the Lebanese border, 40,000 civilians are on the brink of starvation after months of being besieged by regime leader Bashar al Assad's forces and its allies, according to various media reports.
Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia militia and Assad ally, has planted land mines and established checkpoints encircling the town in order to prevent the civilian population from leaving.
In addition, the Shia militia has reportedly not been allowing any humanitarian aid to reach the embattled town, which is predominantly Sunni, for more than six months.
Turkey’s Anadolu Agency has reported that at least 23 people including six children died last month in Madaya due to starvation, according to a medical report prepared by the town’s health panel.
The same report stated that eight people also died in December after detonating land mines while trying to escape from the town.
Weather conditions have also recently been very harsh for the residents of Madaya, affecting particularly children and the elderly. People try to get warm by burning wooden debris of destroyed houses in the town, reports have stated.
The British newspaper the Independent has reported that 850 infants urgently need milk and that six newborn babies have died because their mothers were unable to feed them, according to a media activist in the town.
The siege has also led to prices in Madaya skyrocketing, where a 1kg bag of rice could reportedly cost up to $100 and a 1kg bag of sugar could cost up to $150.
People have been putting up their cars for sale in order to get 10kg of rice or 5kg of baby milk formula according to the Independent.
A Turkish NGO, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), has said that desperate families are feeding their children leaves from trees.
Samir Tateen, a member of the town’s local coordination committee, previously told Anadolu Agency that 70 people have died from hunger and 50 people have contracted various diseases in Madaya since the beginning of the siege.
It is almost impossible to know the exact number of Syrians killed during the conflict in the country in 2015 or the real casualty figures from five years of war.
In 2015, 55,000 people were killed in Syria according to recent research conducted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Between 250,000 and 350,000 Syrians have been killed since the uprising against Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad began in March 2011, according to various estimates.