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Update from Madaya

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Update from Madaya

by Franklin Lamb

Beirut

The United Nations has recently reported that nearly one million Syrians now live under siege, a figure that is up from 393,000 Syrians at the same time last year. "Horror is now usual," UN Emergency Relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien said in a November statement before the UN Security Council in New York. "It is a level of violence and destruction that the world appears to consider normal for Syria and normal for the Syrian people."

Four year old Manal and three year old Mohamand-Kamal shown above in better days. Since July 2015 with an airtight encirclement reinforced by thousands of landmines. The result continues to be widespread starvation, with residents surviving on foliage and scraps. Like literally hundreds among the thousands of children still trapped in Madaya, the children are fading and weakening from malnutrition and related illnesses without much to eat for many months. More about Manal and Kamal at: Will proxy politics bring death for Madaya siblings Manal and Mohammed-Kamal? (Above photo of Manal and Kamal courtesy of Sahar, mother of the babies. She has not seen them for nearly one year)

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A total of 56 Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) trucks, in coordination with the United Nations (UN) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) finally entered nearly two years long besieged Madaya last week.

After five months with very little to eat, almost no medicines or medical care, the 40,000 residents of Madaya, a former holiday destination for many in Syria, Lebanon and the Gulf, located 26km northwest of Damascus received some international aid. On 3/15.2017 7,800 food packages that included canned beans and hummus, lunch meat, peas, cooking oil, olive oil, thyme, beans, sugar, rice lentils, bulgur and flour arrived. No fuel or cooking gas was included in the aid delivery, although Madaya residents regularly request these much needed items. Some basic medicines were allowed in and children's medicines, mineral salts, vitamins, anti-inflammation medication and limited surgical supplies.

Unfortunately, for the dozens of Madaya residents in active kidney failure due to malnutrition, dialysis supplies, which have long been urgently requested of the UN to treat scores of Madaya residents like Manal and Kamal shown above, did not arrive.

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According to ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky, last week: "The people of Madaya have been suffering for years and there must be a regularity to bring them aid that can save their lives," "Waiting four or five months is not a solution." The ICRC is "keeping a dialogue" open with the Syrian regime in order to regulate access Sedky said adding that "an aid delivery every now and then will never solve the problem."

Madaya Local Council Representative Firas al-Hussein, among others has reported that Shia militia fighters from a few countries still surrounding Madaya are shooting residents who approach food distribution points set up recently by the UN, ICRC and SARCS. Mr. al-Hussein advised this observer a few days ago that "sectarian snipers from four countries shoot at anyone who tries to reach the distribution centers."

As a result, the local council has been forced to stop distributing food parcels to nearly half of the 40,000 residents in the besieged town, which received its first UN-sponsored aid delivery in nearly six months on March 14, 2017. Of the six residents who were shot trying to approach and collect a family box of aid, two are dead, and one is comatose, claims Mr. al-Hussein.

He added that "The snipers, who ring the town along with thousands of landmines, shoot at anyone who attempts to flee from their blockade."

Even since fighters surrounded the former resort town in July 2015, more than 20 Madaya residents have been killed by snipers and landmines, according to a July 2016 report by Physicians for Human Rights.


The above warehouse in north Madaya, was reportedly hit by artillery shells on March 15. An increasingly common "surrender of starve" vaporization of food and medicines. Photo courtesy of Firas al-Hussein.

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which helped deliver the aid on 3/14/2017, has not commented on the shootings. They claim that if they do they may be expelled from Syria, so reports al-Hussein.

If the sniping continues, local council members plan to begin distributing the remaining food packages in the middle of the night. So far, as noted above, six residents have been shot by snipers. Two have died and one is lying in the hospital, comatose. One man, from neighboring Baqin, was shot when the UN convoy entered. The next day, while the aid trucks were unloading the supplies, several young men were shot.

Local media has reported that residents are being targeted not just by snipers but also by artillery fire. When asked by this observer how has this affected the local council's ability to distribute aid packages to residents, one resident replied: "We have not distributed any food packages to the northern section of the town because snipers are shooting at anyone who tries to reach the distribution centers. Residents are targeted by artillery fire, too."

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)
 

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