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Aid Convoy Finally Enters the Besieged Syrian Town of Madaya

An aid convoy that left this morning from Damascus to deliver food and other supplies to thousands of besieged civilians, some of them at risk of starvation, arrived in Madaya Monday evening.
Des combattants rebelles marchent près des véhicules du croissant rouge en chemin pour Foua et Kefraya, dans la province d'Idlib, Syrie, le 11 janvier 2016. (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters)

An aid convoy that left this morning from Damascus to deliver food and other supplies to thousands of besieged civilians, some of them at risk of starvation, arrived to the Syrian border town of Madaya on Monday.

"They are offloading supplies as we speak," said Stephane Dujarric, the United Nations spokesperson in New York.

The International Committee of the Red Cross published photos of the convoy entering Madaya as darkness fell.


— Pawel Krzysiek (@PKrzysiekICRC)January 11, 2016

Related: 'Children Are Eating Leaves Off The Trees': The Nightmare of The Siege of Madaya, Syria

Loay, a 28-year old student in Madaya who would only give his first name, sent VICE News a photo of the trucks, and said he was happy to receive the food, but that he hoped it would last.

"We are excited, it's now 2016 and we are so happy that we will eat," he said. "But of course we are worried about getting food in the future"

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, said that the vehicles from the Red Cross, Red Crescent and the United Nations entered the town in order to prepare for trucks carrying the aid.

The Observatory also said that residents had expelled the opposition military commander from the city after he tried to take control of the aid distribution. The  organization also reported that Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organization allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, had told residents that they would distribute the aid, but that residents had to come to the area of town that they control in order to receive it.

VICE News could not confirm those reports.

Madaya has been the scene of a months-long siege that aid organizations say has caused more than 50 people to starve to death.  Photos of malnourished children, reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps, have been distributed by Syrian opposition activists on social media.


Pro-government news organizations alleged that the photos are fake, or that opposition fighters inside the town have hoarded the food for themselves.

Opposition forces are themselves besieging two pro-government towns near Syria's Idlib: Fouaa and Kefraya.

Earlier Monday the United Nations World Food program said convoys headed for those two towns today would deliver aid for 20,000 people for a month, to include food stuffs like rice, oil, and canned foods, in addition to medical supplies. It said the convoy to Madaya would deliver enough food for 40,000 people for one month and other supplies.

Related: Aid Trucks Head for Besieged Syrian Town of Madaya

A group of NGOs issued a statement saying that while the delivery of food was a positive development, one-off aid deliveries would not suffice to protect Syria's civilian population from suffering from malnutrition and other ailments related to the conflict.

"Today's delivery of food is extremely welcome – but it is only a temporary respite that will run out again in a few weeks unless regular aid is allowed in," Save the Children's Middle East Advocacy Director, Misty Buswell, said as part of a statement from eight NGOs, including Oxfam and World Vision. "Our partners on the ground are reporting many malnourished children on the verge of starvation. There now needs to be a complete end to the siege so that aid can continue to reach them after this delivery, or else it is just postponing their suffering."

The statement also pointed out that Madaya is one of 15 areas across Syria under siege.