Syria: Starvation continues in Madaya - MSF denounces continued blockage of essential aid and medical evacuations

Brussels - Residents of the besieged Syrian town of Madaya continue to die of starvation, despite the provision of aid in convoys, as the Syrian government-led coalition blocks life-saving medical supplies from the town, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said Friday.

“It is totally unacceptable that people continue to die from starvation, and that critical medical cases remain in the town when they should have been evacuated weeks ago,” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF’s director of operations.

After the heavy shelling of Madaya last summer and the tightening of the siege during the winter, massive restrictions placed on humanitarian assistance mean that essential medical supplies – including enough therapeutic food to treat the most severe cases of malnutrition – are not available.

MSF estimates that between 1.5 and two million people are trapped in sieges imposed by the Syrian government-led coalition, as well as by opposition groups. In many of these places, medical evacuations are prevented and medical material, drugs and therapeutic food is repeatedly blocked at checkpoints. As a result, medical teams in these areas simply cannot cope with the demands they face. The situation in Madaya is even worse as there are no doctors present in the town.

According to health workers supported by MSF inside Madaya, 16 people have died since the delivery of aid in three convoys earlier this month.

There are an estimated 320 cases of malnutrition in the town of 20,000 people, of which 33 are severe, meaning that they are in danger of death if they do not receive prompt and effective treatment.

 “There needs to be a permanent and independent medical presence in Madaya immediately, as we expect the medical situation to worsen as access to healthcare for people inside remains extremely limited,” said de le Vingne, the operations director.

MSF-supported medics are now reporting malnutrition in other towns in Syria, including in Moadamiyah, southwest of Damascus.

“The warring parties responsible for these besiegement strategies need to allow unhindered medical and humanitarian access immediately, in accordance with International Humanitarian Law. This includes lifting any restrictions on medical evacuations from these zones,” said de le Vingne.