Syria to allow aid into besieged and 'starving' Madaya: UN

 A toddler is held up to the camera in this still image taken from 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 video said to be shot in Madaya on Jan 5, 2016.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
 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

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syria’s government gave permission on Thursday for UN aid deliveries to three besieged towns, including Madaya near Damascus where people are reportedly starving to death, the UN said.

“The UN welcomes today’s approval from the Government of Syria to access Madaya, Fuaa and Kafraya and is preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days,” a UN statement said.

It said there were “credible reports of people dying from starvation” in Madaya, including a 53-year-old man who reportedly perished on Tuesday.

The three towns are part of a landmark six-month deal reached in September for an end to hostilities in those areas in exchange for humanitarian assistance.

Access to Madaya and nearby Zabadani had been restricted by pro-regime forces, while Fuaa and Kafraya, in north-west Syria, are surrounded by anti-government fighters.

Madaya last received humanitarian assistance in October but has since been inaccessible “despite numerous requests,” according to the statement from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Around 40,000 people, mostly civilians, live in the town in Damascus province.

At least 10 people have died there from a lack of food and medicine, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.

Social media users expressed outrage on Thursday at images of what appeared to be Madaya residents looking extremely frail after months of little food.

The UN said that over the past year, only 10 per cent of its requested aid deliveries to hard-to-reach and besieged areas of Syria were approved and carried out.