After beginning negotiations last week, the Syrian regime agreed to allow UN and Red Cross aid convoys to deliver food to rebel-controlled Madaya in West Ghouta on Monday. In exchange for this concession, rebel factions agreed to allow simultaneous aid deliveries to two rebel-encircled pro-regime villages of Kafariya and al-Fuaa in Idlib province.
After much back and forth, negotiations resulted in a late September agreement between the Victory Army rebels and an Iranian negotiation committee representing the regime: A six-month ceasefire, currently in place, stipulates the entrance of aid to regime-controlled Kafariya and al-Fuaa in exchange for the regime doing the same around rebel-held Zabadani (including Madaya) in West Ghouta.
Syria Direct can confirm that the UN aid destined for Madaya has arrived to the outskirts of the blockaded town. But pro-regime forces have not allowed them to enter, Amr a-Sheikh, a member of the opposition council charged with overseeing aid in Madaya, tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou.
A-Sheikh was standing just 50 meters away from the regime checkpoint where the convoy currently awaits as he spoke to Hamou.
A few truckloads of food is not a solution, says a-Sheikh. “This morning, two more people died from starvation,” he said, bringing the total number of starvation deaths in the town to 60.
“The besieged people of Madaya do not care about the arrival of aid as much as they care about the opening of the road and a settlement to end the blockade once and for all,” says a-Sheikh.
Q: Media sources have reported that UN aid convoys will enter today. What are the details?
We have received confirmation from the UN office in Damascus that the convoys will depart for Madaya today.
After hours of delay, Red Crescent convoy enters West Ghouta’s Madaya on Monday. Photo courtesy of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Q: Do you have any statistics about the number of deaths due to starvation? What is the medical situation under the siege?
Sixty people starved to death and there were five additional deaths after the regime announced that it had approved the entry of aid. This morning, two more people died from starvation (one man and one woman).
The medical situation is terrible, but hunger and death due to starvation are the biggest concern. Medical supplies in Madaya have been completely depleted—there are noanesthetics, disinfectant, or any kind of medicine left.Madaya does not have any medical supplies. Imagine, if someone gets wounded, there is no surgical thread, dressing or disinfectant available.
Q: After the campaigns by activists, politicians and aid organizations, has the situation improved in Madaya?
On the contrary, the situation has gotten worse. Money started coming in, but not food, which prompted traders to dramatically raise their prices. The daily expenditure of a single family on food reached $250. In Madaya there are 4,000 families.
A kilo of any item (rice, sugar, bulgur, or lentils) can cost as much as $200, if you manage to find it at all. The price of baby formula has reached $400 (per kilo) due to scarcity.
We are urgently demanding the opening of the road into Madaya as soon as possible. The besieged people of Madaya do not care about the arrival of aid as much as they care about the opening of the road and a settlement to end the blockade once and for all.We could have demanded the opening of the road before the arrival of aid, but we have been distracted by the deaths [from starvation] and the scale of the tragedy.