Aid to reach Syria's starved and blockaded towns

Aid to reach Syria's starved and blockaded towns
A mobile clinic is on its way to the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, where dozens have died of starvation, as Russia begins a 'humanitarian operation' in Deir Az-Zour.
2 min read
15 January, 2016
The Assad regime has tightened its sieges over rebel-held towns [Getty]
A mobile clinic with medics on board has been sent to the besieged Syrian town of Madaya that has become a symbol of civilian suffering, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

The unit was dispatched by the UN agency and Syrian Arab Red Crescent to treat residents hit by malnutrition in the rebel-held town of 40,000 besieged by pro-government forces for the past six months, said Rana Sidani, a WHO regional official.

A convoy of 44 aid trucks loaded with food and medicine on Thursday entered Madaya - where the UN says hardships are the worst seen in Syria's nearly five-year war.

Relief workers examined 350 residents of the town, located around 40 kilometres from the Syrian capital, and found multiple cases of severe malnutrition, Sidani said.

A first convoy was allowed to enter Madaya on Monday after reports that more than two dozen inhabitants have starved to death since December sparked international alarm.

Aid workers scrambled on Friday to help a hunger-stricken Syrian town where a teenager became the latest victim to succumb to starvation, as Western powers sought UN action on lifting blockades.

The plight of Madaya and other besieged areas has prompted the UN Security Council to call an emergency meeting for Friday, amid warnings that the use of starvation as a weapon constitutes a war crime.

Meanwhile, Russia launched "humanitarian operations" on Friday where it is carrying out a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group [IS], claiming peaceful life was slowly returning to the war-torn country.

"The inhabitants are gradually coming back to Syrian cities and peaceful life is returning," General Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian General Staff official, told reporters.

"In this context, the implementation of humanitarian operations will be a new line of work for the Russian armed forces in Syria," he said in televised comments.

"Currently most of the aid is being sent to the city of Deir Az-Zour which has been besieged by ISIL terrorists for a long time," Rudskoi said, using another term for IS.

He said Syria's Il-76 military transport planes had airdropped 22 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Deir Az-Zour using Russian equipment.

"It will be distributed by local authorities," Rudskoi added.