Special to WorldTribune.com
Desperate for food and without electricity to keep warm as winter sinks in, residents in the Syrian town of Madaya are suffering through the worst conditions seen since the civil war began, the United Nations said on Jan. 12.
“There is no comparison in what we saw in Madaya,” the UN refugee agency’s chief in Damascus, Sajjad Malik, told journalists a day after humanitarian aid was delivered to the town for the first time since October.
Malik pointed to “credible reports” of people starving to death during the months-long siege by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Doctors Without Borders said 28 people in Madaya had starved to death.
Meanwhile, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, told journalists in New York on Jan. 11 that there was “no starvation in Madaya.”
Food was so scarce that many had resorted to eating a soup made of grass boiled with the few available spices, residents told the UN.
Residents in Madaya “repeatedly mentioned that a kilo of rice would cost $300 (275 euros),” Malik said, adding that one family “sold a motorbike to get five kilos of rice.”
Malik said Madaya had no access to electricity and desperate residents tried to stay warm by burning cardboard. “Whatever we had in the cars, we gave to them,” he said.
The World Health Organization has said it wants to deploy mobile health clinics to assist the town’s 40,000 residents after the total collapse of the town’s health care infrastructure.
The situation in Madaya won’t improve unless the Assad regime allows more aid deliveries into the besieged town, Malik said.
“If we are not able to sustain this… even the effort we have put in now will be a band-aid. We want to make sure that these sieges are lifted.”