Aid reaches besieged Syrian town of Madaya

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Four UN trucks enter town cut off since October

ANKARA – Four trucks of humanitarian aid reached the besieged Syrian town of Madaya on Monday night.

The UN supplies of food and blankets reached the rebel-held town, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Damascus, which has been under siege from the regime forces and Hezbollah for nearly three months.

The trucks are part of a 49-vehicle convoy.

“Almost 42,000 people remaining in Madaya are at risk of further hunger and starvation,” the UN’s refugee agency said in a statement. “The UN has received credible reports of people dying from starvation and being killed while trying to leave.

“On Jan. 5, 2016, a 53-year-old man reportedly died while his family of five continues to suffer from severe malnutrition.”

Last month, 23 people died of starvation in the town. Living conditions in Madaya have deteriorated as winter sets in. Electricity supplies have been cut and residents have resorted to burning the remains of their homes to provide heating.

“Crowds of hungry kids around,” Sajjad Mali, the agency’s representative in Syria, said in a text message from the town. “It’s heart-breaking to see so many hungry people. It’s cold and raining but there is excitement because we are here with some food and blankets.”

Convoys with aid for 20,000 people have also entered the besieged towns of Foa’a and Kefraya, near the border with Turkey.

According to local sources, food prices have risen dramatically since the Madaya blockade began. A kilogram of rice reportedly now costs around $115.

The Syria conflict, which will enter its sixth year in early 2016, has left more than 250,000 people dead and turned the country into the world’s largest source of refugees and displaced persons, according to the UN.

Nearly 8 million victims are internally displaced and more than 4 million have fled to nearby countries since the conflict started.

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