New aid convoy enters besieged Syrian town

Madaya (Syria): A convoy carrying desperately needed food and medicine entered the hunger-stricken Syrian town of Madaya today, the second delivery of aid this week after months of government siege.

Six white trucks emblazoned with the logo of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered the town – where the United Nations says suffering is the worst seen in Syria’s nearly five-year war – late this afternoon, an AFP reporter said.

Dozens of additional trucks were waiting on the edges of the town after arriving from Damascus as part of the convoy carrying flour and other foodstuffs, medical supplies and a range of basic supplies.

The town’s 40,000 residents have endured a crippling siege by pro-government forces that has drawn sharp condemnation from the UN and world powers.

More than two dozen people have reportedly starved to death since December, sparking a global outcry.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said the convoy included a total of 44 aid trucks.

“The priority is wheat flour and washing materials,” Pawel Krzysiek told.

Medical teams were aboard the trucks and “the ICRC is also bringing a nutritionist for a proper assessment” of residents, he said.

A separate convoy of 17 trucks left the capital for Fuaa and Kafraya, two towns in Syria’s northwest encircled by rebels, and the aid was to enter all three places simultaneously, Krzysiek added.

According to Al-Manar, a station operated by Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, at least three trucks had also entered Fuaa and Kafraya.

Today’s delivery to Madaya follows one on Monday that was the first humanitarian assistance received by the town in nearly four months.

In a statement today, the ICRC’s top official in Syria, Marianne Gasser, said Madaya’s suffering was “heartbreaking”.

“People are desperate. Food is in extremely short supply. It is the elderly, women and children who are suffering the most, especially from severe malnourishment… This cannot go on,” Gasser said.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said a third delivery to the towns would take place “in the following days”.

“We are encouraged that we have been able to reach these towns, where thousands of people have been trapped for very long periods of time,” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, told reporters.