Syria war: Hunger stalks besieged Madaya

In the basement of a house in the rebel-held Syrian town of Madaya is what people there call a medical centre. It is, actually, just a room with a bed, where the sick come for some help.

But for many of the cases brought in, there is not much that can be done, aid groups say, with what little equipment there is in a precarious state and insufficient medicine available.

In the dim and crowded surroundings, aid workers who went there recently met a woman whose daughter spent four days without eating. This, the mother told them, was because the girl's body no longer tolerated rice.

Residents, under siege since June 2015, said rice had been the only food available there for months.

Some children could no longer walk straight, the workers heard, because they lacked vitamins. Others had stopped growing. Elderly people looked fragile and much older than their years.

The 40,000 residents of Madaya, in the mountains 15 miles (25km) north-west of Damascus, are surrounded by the Syrian army and allied fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

Most of their food provision is dependant on infrequent humanitarian deliveries.

Relief finally came last week, when a convoy of 71 trucks brought food, medical supplies and hygiene kits for Madaya and three other besieged cities: nearby rebel-held Zabadani, and government-controlled Foah and Kefraya, in Idlib province, to the north.

It was the first time aid was allowed in in almost six months.

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