Besieged town awaits aid after starving Syrians eat pets, grass to survive
Government in Damascus has agreed to let in aid to Madaya as images of emaciated residents shock and appall
Images of starving children and emaciated residents of a besieged Syrian village have drawn fresh attention to the civilian toll of the country’s civil war, as the government in Damascus finally agreed to allow in international aid.
The United Nations said in a statement Thursday it was preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days to the town of Madaya, which has been cut off by government forces for months, and to two Shia towns in Idlib province that have been isolated by rebel fighters.
Madaya has been under siege since July, and conditions have grown worse with the onset of winter, residents there said. The last aid delivery to both Madaya and the two Shia villages of al-Foua and Kefraya, which are cut off by rebel forces, was in October.
“We were living on tree leaves, on plants,” said Majed Ali, 28, an opposition activist who spoke to Reuters by phone from Madaya. “But now we are struggling in a snowstorm, and there are no more plants or leaves.”
Ali said he lost close to 30 percent of his weight since the siege began, dropping from about 250 pounds to 176.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday said at least 23 people, including children, have died in Madaya because of the siege, and at least 300 children are suffering from malnutrition.
Pawel Krzysiek, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Damascus, also outlined the scale of suffering in the area.
“We have seen credible reports that people are starving … People are hungry, and it is very cold out there with no electricity or fuel,” Krzysiek told the DPA news agency.
Medical professionals in Madaya said people “were eating grass to stay alive.”
“We cannot provide milk for infants,” Dr. Khaled Mohammed told DPA this week. “Today a 10-year-old child died of malnutrition.”
Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, told Al Jazeera that hundreds of thousands of people are in similar situations across Syria.
“We believe there are 400,000 people in 15 towns and cities who are in a situation where they are besieged by different parties to the conflict,” Fleming said.
“‘Besieged’ translates into civilians completely cut off from any humanitarian aid: no food, no medicine, shelters without heat and water. These are situations under which people cannot survive any more,” she said.
The crisis drew attention this week as images and video
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