"I've forgotten the taste" of bread; besieged Syrian town awaits aid

Three trucks carrying long-awaited food and medical supplies entered the Syrian town of Madaya on Monday, with Doctors without Borders (MSF) saying almost 30 people there have died of starvation after a months-long siege by government forces.

After waiting for four hours at a government checkpoint, the first trucks of the 40-strong convoy moved into the town shortly after 5:30 pm local time (1530 GMT), Red Cross spokesman Pawel Krzysiek, who was accompanying the aid delivery, said.

At the same time, three aid trucks entered the isolated north-western Shiite villages of Foua and Kefraya, which have been besieged by hardline Islamist rebels, Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah said.

The simultaneous aid supplies were arranged under a UN-sponsored deal between government and rebel forces. Deliveries would continue overnight, Krzysiek said.

A source in the Syrian Red Crescent said some 330 tons of food and medical aid were being sent to Madaya, enough to last for about 40 days.

Located about 25 kilometres north-west of the capital, the town has been under siege since July by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and which have also been aided by Hezbollah fighters. Madaya last received supplies in October.

Local activists say residents have been reduced to eating grass and leaves in order to survive. The situation has worsened with winter snowfalls.

Some 40,000 people are believed to be trapped inside Madaya, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

MSF said overnight that five more people had died due to starvation in the town. The group last week said 23 people had died of starvation in the town's hospital since the beginning of December.

One 8-year-old boy in the town told dpa he and his family had been living on "water, salt and pepper" for the last week, but he was fasting completely on Monday to await the arrival of aid.

"I want to have eggs and potatoes for dinner when the aid arrives," Hassan said via Skype.

"We were told the aid contains food we haven't had for almost three months ... I hope they will have bread because I've forgotten the taste of it," Rami, a 10-year-old boy said.

The Shiite villages of Foua and Kafraya, in north-western Idlib province, have been besieged by rebels since April. The ICRC says some 20,000 people are thought to live there.

At least one person has died there due to lack of food and medical supplies, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

UN refugee agency spokesman in Syria Firas al-Khateeb said it was hoped to bring further aid deliveries into all three areas on Thursday and Friday.

MSF said that they have asked for food supplies, special food for treating malnutrition, and a basic package of essential medicines and medical supplies to enable the makeshift hospital in Madaya to keep running.

The group warned that regular supplies to Madaya are essential and a one-time delivery of aid will not be enough.

Last update: Tue, 12/01/2016 - 00:43

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