The United Nations (UN) has asked the Syrian government to allow hundreds of people to be evacuated from Madaya. Convoys were sent to deliver aid to the town where people have been starving to death.
The UN said Monday the situation in Madaya was desperate with hundreds of people in need of immediate evacuation. The same day, aid trucks carrying food and medical supplies arrived in the blockaded Syrian town.
UN ambassadors held a closed-door meeting to discuss the situation. According to US Ambassador Samantha Power, over 400 people "are on the brink of death and in need of immediate medical evacuation:"
The UN has reportedly appealed to the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to allow for their evacuation.
A desperate situation
Forty-four trucks entered Madaya carrying one month's worth of food for over 40,000 people. The town has been under siege by Assad's forces for half a year.
"It's really heartbreaking to see the situation of the people," said Red Cross spokesman Pawel Krzysiek. He said a little girl approached him upon his arrival and asked, "Did you bring food?"
The situation has been so desperate that the people have been forced to live off grass and water. There were even reports of hungry people killing and eating cats to stay alive.
A symbol of inhumanity
Madaya has become a flashpoint in the ongoing war in Syria. Rebels point to it as an example of the inhumanity of the Assad regime. At least 10 people have already died of starvation there and images of emaciated residents - including children - have drawn international condemnation.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), at least 40,000 lives are at risk. The last time aid was delivered to Madaya was in October.
According to the UN, as many as 4.5 million Syrians are living in besieged areas without access to food and basic necessities.
Civilian casualties of the conflict have also been blamed on Russia, which says it is assisting its close ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in routing "Islamic State" militants. On Monday, an alleged Russian airstrike at a school in Syria's northern city of Aleppo killed at least 14 children and five adults, including a teacher, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syria's UN ambassador has denied the accounts of mass starvation and accused the media - especially Arab television - of spreading lies.
blc/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)