The UN has said the Assad regime will allow it to deliver aid to starving people living in several towns, including Madaya. At least ten people have died due to lack of food there.
The government of Bashar al-Assad granted the UN permission to deliver humanitarian aid to three blockaded towns, including one that has become a focal point for opposition groups seeking to draw attention to crimes committed by the president's regime.
"The UN welcomes today's approval from the Government of Syria to access Madaya, Fuaa and Kafraya, and is preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days," a UN statement said. The organization also took to Twitter to make the announcement.
Of those three towns, Madaya has drawn special attention from the international community, with at least ten people there having already starved to death, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Hundreds of thousands at risk
People in the town have resorted to living off water - flavored where possible - and minimal foodstuffs, including vegetation. They have reportedly been forced to burn furniture and other items to stay warm during the winter. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), at least 40,000 lives are at risk. The town has been besieged for around six months, despite a ceasefire agreement reached in September.
The last time aid was delivered to Madaya was in October. The UN has said the Assad regime is using siege warfare in an instrumental manner in order to starve an entire population.
The UN said in its statement that up to 4.5 million people in Syria are living in besieged areas in desperate need of aid. It reiterated its call for the government to allow unimpeded access to those hard-to-reach areas.
Madaya, on the border with Lebanon, is close to Zabadani - recently the site of a UN-brokered mass-evacuation agreed between Assad and opposition groups.
blc/msh (AFP, Reuters)