Hundreds on ‘brink of death’ in Syrian town need evacuation
Around 400 people must be urgently evacuated from Madaya to receive medical care, UN ambassadors said late, after an aid convoy delivered the first supplies in months to the besieged Syrian town.
The United Nations has asked the Syrian government to allow the 400 Syrians to be airlifted out of Madaya, where medical charity MSF says 28 people have starved to death since December 1.
“They need medical evacuation on an urgent basis and they want permission from the government of Syria to lift those people out,” said New Zealand’s Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen.
The UN Security Council was meeting behind closed doors to discuss the situation in the besieged areas where residents said they had resorted to eating grass and killing cats to feed themselves.
UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the 15-member council that the 400 Syrians were “in a very critical situation,” Spanish Ambassador Roman Oyarzun told reporters.
“If they are not evacuated tonight, the situation will be more than dramatic tomorrow,” he said.
US Ambassador Samantha Power said “over 400 people are on the brink of death in need of immediate medical evacuation” from Madaya.
Hours earlier, a convoy of 44 trucks loaded with food, baby formula, blankets and other supplies entered Madaya, which has been under siege by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for six months.
An additional 21 trucks delivered supplies to two other towns besieged by the rebels: Fuaa and Kafraya.
Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Jaafari dismissed reports of starvation in Madaya as fabrications and accused “terrorists inside” the town of stealing the supplies.
Britain and France are calling for an end to the sieges.
“All sieges must be lifted to save civilian lives and to bring Syria closer to peace,” he said in a statement.
The United Nations says it is struggling to deliver aid to about 4.5 million Syrians who live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged areas.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said lifting the sieges was key ahead of a new round of peace talks between Assad’s government and the opposition planned for January 25 in Geneva.
“The intra-Syrian negotiations will not resume unless there is an improvement of the civilians’ plight,” he said.
More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations.