Hundreds need urgent evacuation from besieged Syria town of Madaya

An emaciated man in Madaya is seen in this undated picture taken from social media.
An emaciated man in Madaya is seen in this undated picture taken from social media. PHOTO: REUTERS
An emaciated man in Madaya is seen in this undated picture taken from social media.
An emaciated man in Madaya is seen in this undated picture taken from social media.PHOTO: REUTERS
A toddler is held up to the camera in this still image taken from a video said to be shot in Madaya on Jan 5, 2016.
A toddler is held up to the camera in this still image taken from a video said to be shot in Madaya on Jan 5, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
A convoy of cars loaded with food and medical supplies moving towards Madaya, Syria, on Jan 11, 2016.
A convoy of cars loaded with food and medical supplies moving towards Madaya, Syria, on Jan 11, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
A Red Cross aid convoy on its way to the besieged city of Madaya, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.
A Red Cross aid convoy on its way to the besieged city of Madaya, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.PHOTO: EPA
A Red Cross aid convoy on its way to the besieged city of Madaya, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.
A Red Cross aid convoy on its way to the besieged city of Madaya, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.PHOTO: EPA
Rebel fighters inspecting Red Crescent vehicles on their way to Al Foua and Kefraya, in Idlib province, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.
Rebel fighters inspecting Red Crescent vehicles on their way to Al Foua and Kefraya, in Idlib province, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Red Crescent workers standing near their vehicles prior to inspection from rebels before heading to Al Foua and Kefraya, in Idlib province, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.
Red Crescent workers standing near their vehicles prior to inspection from rebels before heading to Al Foua and Kefraya, in Idlib province, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Syrians from the besieged town of Madaya walking near Syrian soldiers as they leave towards the capital for treatment, on Jan 11, 2016.
Syrians from the besieged town of Madaya walking near Syrian soldiers as they leave towards the capital for treatment, on Jan 11, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
A rebel fighter inspecting Red Crescent vehicles on their way to Al Foua and Kefraya, in Idlib province, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.
A rebel fighter inspecting Red Crescent vehicles on their way to Al Foua and Kefraya, in Idlib province, Syria on Jan 11, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Residents, who say they have received permission from the Syrian government to leave the besieged town, departing on Jan 11, 2016.
Residents, who say they have received permission from the Syrian government to leave the besieged town, departing on Jan 11, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
A convoy of cars loaded with foodstuff, baby milk and blankets moving towards the besieged town of Madaya, Syria, on Jan 11, 2016.
A convoy of cars loaded with foodstuff, baby milk and blankets moving towards the besieged town of Madaya, Syria, on Jan 11, 2016.PHOTO: EPA
Residents who say they have received permission from the Syrian government to leave the besieged town, waiting to depart on Jan 11, 2016.
Residents who say they have received permission from the Syrian government to leave the besieged town, waiting to depart on Jan 11, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Some 400 people must be urgently evacuated from Madaya to receive medical care, UN ambassadors said on Monday (Jan 11), after an aid convoy delivered the first supplies in months to the besieged Syrian town.

The United Nations has asked the Syrian government to allow the 400 Syrians to be airlifted out of Madaya, where medical charity MSF says 28 people have starved to death since Dec 1.

“They need medical evacuation on an urgent basis tonight and they want permission from the government of Syria to lift those people out,” said New Zealand’s Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen.

The UN Security Council was meeting behind closed doors to discuss the situation in the besieged areas where residents told AFP they had resorted to eating grass and killing cats to feed themselves.

UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the 15-member council that the 400 Syrians were “in a very critical situation,” Spanish Ambassador Roman Oyarzun told reporters.

“If they are not evacuated tonight, the situation will be more than dramatic tomorrow,” he said.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said “over 400 people are on the brink of death in need of immediate medical evacuation” from Madaya.

Hours earlier, a convoy of 44 trucks loaded with food, baby formula, blankets and other supplies entered Madaya, which has been under siege by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for six months.

An additional 21 trucks delivered supplies to two other towns besieged by the rebels: Fuaa and Kafraya.

Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Jaafari dismissed reports of starvation in Madaya as fabrications and accused “terrorists inside” the town of stealing the supplies.

Britain and France are calling for an end to the sieges.

“Starving civilians is an inhuman tactic used by the Asad regime and their allies,” said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.

“All sieges must be lifted to save civilian lives and to bring Syria closer to peace,” he said in a statement.

The United Nations says it is struggling to deliver aid to about 4.5 million Syrians who live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged areas.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said lifting the sieges was key ahead of a new round of peace talks between Mr Assad’s government and the opposition planned for Jan 25 in Geneva.

“The intra-Syrian negotiations will not resume unless there is an improvement of the civilians’ plight,” he said.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations.