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Siege leaves Syria's Madaya a city of 'people but no life'

A UN official has described horrible conditions in Madaya a day after a humanitarian convoy reached the starving city. Children were reportedly eating grass to stay alive.

The besieged city of Madaya has seen some of the worst sufferings of the nearly five-year Syrian civil war, the UN said on Tuesday, a day after humanitarian relief arrived in the starving city.

"There is no comparison in what we saw in Madaya," the UN refugee agency's chief in Damascus, Sajjad Malik, said.

"There are people in Madaya, but there is no life, the situation is horrible. There is no food, no light, no heating with low temperatures," Malik said a day after visiting the city.

A 44 truck humanitarian convoy from the UN, Syrian Red Crescent and International Red Cross

on Monday delivered aid to the beleaguered city

located 24 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Damascus.

Watch video 02:03

Syria: Aid arrives in hunger-stricken Madaya

The medical and food supplies were the first to reach the city since October. At least two dozen people have starved to death in the city of 42,000 people, whose population is "malnourished and in a desperate situation," Malik said.

Malik said people were so hungry that they "repeatedly mentioned that a kilo of rice would cost $300 (275 euros)."

Many children reportedly were forced to eat grass to stay alive, but then faced the danger of stepping on land mines.

Humanitarian groups are negotiating with the warring parties

to remove 400 people from Madaya

in order to provide them with life-saving emergency care.

The UN said on Monday that it hoped that more shipments of food and medical supplies could be provided to the city.

The aid shipment to Madaya was part of a deal that also includes the neighboring rebel-held Zabadani. Both towns are surrounded by regime forces and allied Hezbollah militia.

The UN-brokered six-month truce between rebels and the regime also allowed two aid convoys to

simultaneously enter the government-held Shiite villages of Foua and Kafraya in northern Syria,

which have been under siege by rebels for months.

As part of the deal, some civilians and wounded fighters will be allowed to leave in a swap between regime-held and rebel-held towns.

The Syrian regime and Hezbollah have accused rebels in the besieged cities of hoarding food and fabricating stories.

The UN aims to build local ceasefires and humanitarian operations across the country as part of international peace talks between the regime and rebels scheduled for the end of January.

cw/jil (AFP, EFE)

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