UNICEF confirms severe malnutrition in Madaya – Today’s Zaman

UN children‘s fund UNICEF on Friday confirmed cases of severe malnutrition among children in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, where aid was delivered this week to thousands of people affected by the months-long blockade.

“UNICEF … can confirm that cases of severe malnutrition were found among children,” it said in a statement, after the United Nations and Red Cross entered the town on Monday and Thursday to deliver aid for the first time since October.

Dozens of deaths from starvation have been reported by monitoring groups, local doctors, and local aid agencies from Madaya, which is besieged by Syrian pro-government forces.

UNICEF said that out of 25 children under the age of five screened by its staff and the World Health Organization (WHO), 22 showed signs of “moderate to severe” malnutrition.

Its staff also witnessed the death of a severely malnourished 16-year-old boy, it said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday said Syria’s warring parties, particularly the government, were committing “atrocious acts” and condemned the use of starvation as a weapon of war in the nearly five-year conflict.

The United Nations says there are some 450,000 people trapped in around 15 siege locations across Syria, including in areas controlled by the government, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other insurgent groups.

Aid deliveries to Madaya came as part of an agreement between warring sides that included the simultaneous delivery of aid to thousands of people in two villages in the northwest of the country which are encircled by rebel fighters.

A mal-nourished toddler is held up to the camera in this still image from Madaya. (Photo: Reuters)

Mobile clinic on way to Madaya

Meanwhile, a mobile clinic and medical team is on its way to the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, where the local community has reported that 32 people died of starvation in the last 30 days, UN agencies said on Friday.

The Syrian government has given permission for the mobile clinic of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to enter the town and has also agreed for vaccination to be carried out, Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) told a news briefing.

The local community’s relief committee told officials of the United Nations’ World Food Program that 32 people had died of hunger in the last 30 days, WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said.

The United Nations hopes to send convoys to Madaya and the rebel-besieged towns of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib next week, but no date has been set for Zabadani, OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said.

In the meantime, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on Friday for all sides in the Syria conflict to use their influence to ensure that humanitarian aid was delivered to areas blockaded by militants.

It said the situation in three places — Madaya, Fua and Kafraya — was a source of particular concern, saying they were besieged or blockaded by various militant groups.

The ministry said it had been working with the Syrian government to try to help resolve the situation and had been encouraging them to cooperate with the United Nations, efforts it said had produced results.