Save the Children calls for an immediate end to the siege of Madaya

More children will die in the coming days and weeks unless food, medicine, fuel and other vital aid is immediately allowed into the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, Save the Children warns.

Humanitarian workers on the ground report that at least 31 people in the town have died from malnutrition-related causes in the month of December, including three infant children under one year old. Three unborn children have allegedly died as their mothers were severely malnourished and health workers report an increase in cases of Hepatitis A and skin diseases.

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Severe food shortages have pushed the price of essentials such as rice, sugar and bulgur wheat to astronomical levels. Yesterday the cost of bulgur reached $280 per kilogram, according to Save the Children partners in Madaya.

Without electricity and fuel for generators, people are struggling to survive the bitter winter temperatures which have now plummeted below zero. Small children and babies are particularly vulnerable in these conditions, particularly when they are malnourished.

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children CEO, said: “Food is being used as a weapon of war in Madaya and other besieged areas, and children are paying the price. It is appalling to see civilians being made to suffer in this way. Local humanitarian workers in the town are desperate to help, but they themselves have run out of food and medical supplies. If aid does not reach Madaya soon, we know that more children will die needlessly.”

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Around 42,000 people in Madaya have been under siege since July 2015. Only one limited convoy of food has been allowed in since then, with no food, medicine or fuel allowed in at all since mid-October. At that time local doctors said there were already more than 1,000 cases of malnutrition of children under the age of one, and this number is likely to have risen significant since the siege intensified. People are prevented from moving in or out, and residents report that checkpoints, landmines and snipers surround the town.

Families are rationing the limited food available, with many getting just 5-800 kilocalories per day – sometimes just a quarter of the recommended minimum daily amount. Markets are now empty, with some people now so desperate they are forced to eat cat or dog meat and leaves from trees.

Save the Children is calling for an immediate end to the siege of Madaya and other besieged areas across Syria, so that food, medicine, fuel and other aid can enter. Assurances must be given that civilians throughout Syria will have freedom of movement and free access to the humanitarian assistance that they require.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact the media team on 020 7012 6841 / 07785527663

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