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Syrians await long term food aid in besiged towns, UN to start dropping supplies

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On January 7, 2016, the situation in the Syrian city of Madaya reached a new low.

The situation in besieged cities like Madaya are "extremely dire," according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Earlier this month, 40,000 were at risk of starvation.

Three days ago, five more people died from malnutrition. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is calling for the immediate medical evacuations of 18 patients at its clinic, including a seven-month-old girl and a 70-year-old woman.

These latest deaths followed the arrival of the first UN humanitarian convoy into the town on January 11, 2016. MSF-supported medics now say there have been 35 confirmed deaths from starvation in the town.

Seige mentality aside, there are plenty of testimonials that detail the Syrian Regime's behaviour towards its citizens. As a result of the conditions, many with money pay off human smugglers and contemplate the risky boat trip to mainland Europe.

Just like other besieged towns, the reality is grim. But for Madaya, until now, no food has managed to reach the city since October 2015.

Madaya is closest to Lebanon geographically, and roughly 40,000 people live there.

Activists say civilians have died because of a lack of food and medicine in rebel-controlled Madaya, near Damascus, or have died trying to escape.

An opponent to the Syrian regime living in Madaya said those living in the besieged city are boiling grass to eat.

Citizens of Madaya, when not searching for food, are resting on floor cots trying to preserve their strength.

While there has been one successful incursion into the city by the United Nation, there was simply not enough food and supplies to go around. Reports also differ widely between civilians and government agencies. 

According to World Food Programme's senior spokesperson, Abeer Etefa, "The time on the ground was short, so the team has confirmed that they have seen so many cases of malnutrition. They've seen weak men, underweight children, fragile people, but they have not spent enough time to go around and see what exactly is the situation." She described the situation as a blockade.

There is also no true hospital in Madaya, only a small apartment in a basement. In an interview, the makeshift medical staff say they need food and hydration supplies urgently. 

"What we know is the following: the convoys will continue to arrive to Madaya (and to Kefraya and Foua) throughout this week. We have another one going on Thursday with more aid including wheat flour, and some of the bulky items that still needs to go through. After that, we consider this a window of opportunity and we appeal to all the parties on the ground to give us unimpeded and regular access to these areas," Etefa said.

On January 20, 2016, United Nations (UN) officials gave approval to Britain to drop food into Syrian towns amid claims thousands of residents are at risk of starvation. The flyovers and food drops do not have the permission of Bashar al-Assad's regime.

In December 2015, the UN's Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

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