Reuters in Madaya
Five people have starved to death in the past week in the Syrian town of Madaya, where a single biscuit sells for $15 (£10) and baby milk costs $313 per kg, despite two emergency United Nations aid deliveries to the besieged town, a UN report has said.
Relief workers have reported 32 deaths from starvation in the past month. Last week two aid convoys delivered supplies to the 42,000 people living under a months-long blockade.
Dozens more need immediate specialised medical care outside Madaya if they are to survive, but aid workers from the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have managed to evacuate only 10 people, the report says.
“Since 11 January, despite the assistance provided, five people reportedly died of severe and acute malnutrition in Madaya,” said the UN humanitarian report, published late on Sunday.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said on Thursday that Syria’s warring parties, particularly President Bashar al-Assad’s government, were committing “atrocious acts” and he condemned the use of starvation as a weapon of war in the nearly five-year-old conflict.
The UN says there are approximately 450,000 people trapped in about 15 sieges across Syria, including in areas controlled by the government,Islamic State militants and other insurgent groups.
The UN made seven requests in 2015 to be allowed to bring an aid convoy to the town, and got permission to deliver aid for 20,000 people in October, the report said. After several more requests, the Syrian government allowed a life-saving aid delivery on 11 January and another on 14 January.
About 50 people left the town on 11 January, the report said. The UN has askedSyria to allow the evacuation of a number of others needing immediate care, it said.
Syrian government forces and their allies have surrounded Madaya and neighbouring Bqine since July 2015 and imposed increasingly strict conditions on freedom of movement.
The UN said the humanitarian workers who entered the town last week heard that landmines had been laid since late September to stop people leaving, but many civilians continued to search for food on the outskirts, and some had lost limbs in landmine explosions.
The controls on movement also meant many children had been separated from their parents, leading to symptoms of trauma and behavioural disorders.
Chairs and desks in schools are being used as firewood and there have been unconfirmed reports of women being harassed at military checkpoints and of gender-based violence, the UN said.