Doctors Without Borders announced on Sunday that its patients in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya are starving to death, just days after the UN announced that it will deliver food aid to the region.
The international medical humanitarian organization, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said in a series of tweets that 10 malnourished patients were in urgent need of hospitalization, and that the number could increase by 200 within the week if aid doesn't arrive in time.
MSF also confirmed the deaths of four men and one child due to starvation.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) received approval from the Syrian government earlier this week to send food to the cities of Madaya, Fua, and Kafrayya. On Sunday, WFP officials issued a statement that said they have prepared a convoy of rations, including "rice and other supplies," that is set to travel to the three towns on Monday.
A video taken on Sunday showed trucks being loaded at a warehouse in Kesweh, outside the Syrian capital Damascus, in preparation for the aid shipment.
"WFP will ship food for more than 40,000 people for one month to Madaya from Damascus and 4,000 family rations — enough for 20,000 people for a month — to Foah and Kufraya from Homs," the WFP statement said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria also shared on Twitter that its teams are "working around the clock" making preparations to ensure that the first aid shipment will arrive on Monday.
The town of Madaya, which lies between the Lebanese border and Damascus, has been blockaded since last summer by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which supports him. A small contingent of rebels from the group Ahrar al Sham are holed up inside Madaya, and sources in the city have told VICE News that residents trying to flee have been blown up by landmines and gunned down at checkpoints manned by Hezbollah.
VICE News spoke previously with several Madaya locals who are surviving off of leaves and scraps. On Monday, 52-year-old Um Mohammad said she hasn't had a real meal in months, and that her "only dream is to have a piece of bread."
"WFP is deeply concerned about the reported humanitarian situation in Madaya, which has been besieged for many months, now threatening the lives of nearly 40,000 people," agency spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said on Thursday.
In the past month alone, at least 36 Madaya residents have died from starvation, or in attempts to run the blockade that encircles the town. A report compiled by the Syrian-American Medical Society and made available to VICE News found that a kilogram (two pounds) of flour now retails for around $100, while the average Syrian makes less than $200 each month.
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