Madaya gets first aid delivery in 5 months, ICRC says ‘not a solution’

AMMAN: An aid convoy arrived in the encircled Outer Damascus town of Madaya this week for the first time in five months, but a participating Red Cross spokeswoman told Syria Direct on Wednesday that inconsistent deliveries are “not a solution.”

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) entered Madaya on Tuesday evening carrying flour, food packages and medical supplies for the rebel-held town’s 40,000 residents.

Among the items in the aid packages were children’s medicines, mineral salts, vitamins, anti-inflammation medication and surgical supplies, Mohammed Darwish, one of Madaya’s three medical professionals, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“As usual, the quantity of the medication, rather than the type, is prioritized,” Darwish said, pointing to the dozens of Madaya residents in active kidney failure due to malnutrition. “Dialysis supplies did not arrive.”

The aid convoy left just after dawn on Wednesday, said ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky, in an email to Syria Direct the same day. She estimated that the aid will last up to one month, stressing that this “is definitely not enough.”

 Children in Fuaa and Kufraya unload flour from aid trucks Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Blockaded Fuaa and Kufraya.

In addition to basic medical supplies, Madaya residents received “7,800 food packages that contained canned beans and hummus, lunch meat, peas, cooking oil, olive oil, thyme, beans, sugar, rice lentils, bulgur and flour,” Hussam Mahmoud, an activist and former member of the United Relief Organization in Madaya and Zabadani, told Syria Direct on Wednesday from the besieged town.

No fuel or cooking gas were included in the aid delivery, although Madaya residents “requested them multiple times,” said Mahmoud.

It is “crucial” for humanitarian organizations to maintain regular access not only to Madaya, said spokeswoman Sedky, but three other encircled towns in Syria: Zabadani, Fuaa and Kufriya. The latter two towns are in Idlib province, and are currently encircled and bombarded by rebels. Zabadani, located three kilometers northwest of Madaya, is encircled by the Syrian regime and its militia allies.

The towns are tied together in a tenuous ceasefire known as the “Four Towns Agreement” between rebels and the regime stipulating parallel aid deliveries for all four encircled towns.

“Those people [in the four towns] have been suffering for years and there must be a regularity to bring them aid that can save their lives,” Sedky said. “Waiting four or five months is not a solution.”

Local opposition media in Idlib reported on Wednesday that 18 aid trucks concurrently delivered aid to 20,000 residents in the regime towns of Fuaa and Kafariya on Tuesday.

The ICRC is “keeping a dialogue” open with the Syrian regime in order to regulate access to all four towns, Sedky said on Wednesday, adding that “an aid delivery every now and then will never solve the problem.”

Noura Hourani

Noura Hourani studied English Literature at Tishreen University and previously worked as a private English tutor. She left Syria at the beginning of the conflict.

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali, originally from Daraa, had completed his first year studying Broadcast Journalism at Damascus University before leaving Syria in August 2012.

Yasmine Ali

Originally from Latakia, Yasmine moved to Jordan in 2012 where she completed her education in English Literature. She has worked with Syrian refugees in Jordan. Her goal is to report on the challenges facing Syrian children and youth.

Jessica Page, Reporter/Translator

Jessica was a 2013-2014 Georgetown University Qatar Scholarship Program fellow in Doha, Qatar. She received her BA in both Arabic and International & Area Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked and studied in Jordan, Oman, and Qatar.

Kristen Demilio

Kristen Gillespie Demilio has more than 10 years of experience reporting from the Middle East while based in Amman. She regularly contributed to news outlets including CBS News Radio, NPR, The Jerusalem Report and PBS and is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism as well as the Institut Français des Etudes Arabes in Damascus.