UN allowed to aid Syrians starved by regime in Madaya town

UN says Syrian regime agreed to allow aid into long besieged Madaya town where people starve to death

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A toddler is held up to the camera in this still image taken from video said to be shot in Madaya on January 5, 2016

Updated Jan 14, 2016

United Nations said on Thursday that it reached an agreement with Syrian regime to deliver aid into besieged Madaya town where people are starving to death as a result of months long siege by the Bashar al Assad regime.

The UN is now preparing to provide aid to Madaya in the coming days, as well as assistance to two other towns in the Syrian province of Idlib, Foah and Kefraya, which are besieged by rebel groups, it added.

The deal came after the photos of the starving people created an international outcry and increased pressure on Assad regime.

"We are particularly concerned about the plight of nearly 400,000 people besieged by parties to the conflict in locations such as Deir Ez-Zor city, Daraya, Foah and Kafraya, as well as besieged areas of East Ghouta," the UN said in a statement quoting Yacoub El Hillo, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, and Kevin Kennedy, regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis.

Access to Madaya and nearby Zabadani have been restricted by pro-regime forces, while Foah and Kafraya are surrounded by anti-government fighters.

"In the last year, only 10 percent of all requests for UN inter-agency convoys to hard-to-reach and besieged areas were approved and delivered," the UN said.

According to the UN, up to 4.5 million people in Syria live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged locations who do not have access to the life-saving aid they urgently need.

23 people died of starvation last month in the town of Madaya besieged by the regime, a Madaya health committee report revealed.

"Almost 42,000 people remaining in Madaya are at risk of further hunger and starvation,” the UN said.

It said it has “received credible reports of people dying from starvation and being killed while trying to leave.”

On January 5, a 53-year-old man reportedly died of starvation while his family of five continues to suffer from severe malnutrition.

Living conditions in the town further deteriorated as winter set in. Electricity is non-existent and many people use what is left of their destroyed homes for heating purposes, the report said.

According to local sources in Syria, food prices shot up dramatically since the regime’s blockade began. A kilogram of rice reportedly now costs around $115.

Madaya last received humanitarian assistance in October but has since been inaccessible "despite numerous requests," according to a statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The Syrian conflict, which will enter its fifth year in early 2016, has left more than 350,000 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, AA