UN: Syria approves aid deliveries to 3 besieged villages

UN: Syria approves aid deliveries to 3 besieged villages

United Nations: The Syrian government has approved a United Nations request for new aid deliveries to the besieged towns of Madaya, Foua and Kfarya where hundreds of civilians are facing severe malnutrition and some have starved to death.

The UN humanitarian office announced the approval yesterday as talks aimed at ending the nearly five-year Syrian conflict started in Geneva between the government and opposition.

Aid deliveries to the three villages had been blocked until about three weeks ago when trucks from the UN and other humanitarian organizations were allowed to enter.

Madaya, a town northeast of Damascus with a population of 40,000 that has been besieged by government and allied militiamen for months, gained international attention after harrowing pictures emerged showing emaciated children.

Aid workers who entered the town last month described seeing skeletal figures, children who could barely talk or walk, and parents who gave their kids sleeping pills to calm their hunger.

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders said Friday that 16 people have died in Madaya since the relief convoys began arriving on Jan 12, citing health workers affiliated with its operations.

The group, also known by its French initials MSF, reported 320 cases of malnutrition and said 33 of those people “are in danger of dying if they do not receive prompt and effective treatment.”

In the Shiite villages of Fouaa and Kfarya in northern Idlib province, which have been blockaded by rebels for more than a year, recently evacuated pro-government fighters described desperate conditions.

They said people in the villages, with a combined population of around 20,000, had little food and medicine and some were eating grass to survive and undergoing surgery without anesthesia.

The three villages are among 15 besieged communities across Syria, with more than 400,000 people, according to United Nations estimates. Roughly half of them are in areas controlled by the Islamic State extremist group whose fighters occupy about a third of Syria.