MADAYA , Syria, The Syrian government has allowed humanitarian access to a number of towns where residents had been slowly starving to death while under a six-month siege by troops loyal to the Bashar regime, the United Nations announced Thursday.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was granted the ability to enter the towns of Madaya, Foah and Kefraya. Residents there have been punished with deprivation of food, medicine and electricity.
The British newspaper The Guardian published reports from Madaya, with a population of about 40,000, indicating families were eating flowers, grass and pets to survive, and rice is sold by the gram because 2.2 pounds, or one kilogram, of rice costs up to $250.
“Whether you are a man, woman, child, whether you’re 70 or 20 years old, you will have lost about 15 kilograms [33 pounds] of your weight. You don’t see a child whose eyes aren’t sunken and staring from hunger,” said Ebeahem Abbass, a defector from the Syrian army.
“People are dying in slow motion,” said Louay, a social worker in Madaya. “We have seen people actually die of hunger.”
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 23 people died Wednesday in Madaya due to the siege and from, placed there by Syrian troops. At least 300 children are suffering from malnutrition.
Despite the relief now due to arrive in Madaya, Foah and Kefraya, the UN called for further access to some 400,000 people in 15 more hard-to-reach Syrian locations. OSHA said in the past year, the Syrian government approved 10 percent of all requests for U.N. interagency convoys to move into these areas.
“The ongoing conflict continues to hamper the humanitarian response, and freedom of movement is restricted by the presence of armed actors and landlines,” said a joint statement by Yacoub El Hillo, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, and Kevin Kennedy, regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis.
“The UN welcomes today’s approval from the government of Syria to access Madaya Foah and Kefraya and is preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days.
By Ed Adamczyk