united nations aid reaching besieged syrian town nick paton walsh_00005802.jpg
U.N. food aid reaches besieged Syrian towns
03:10 - Source: CNN

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U.N. official: 400 Syrians in Madaya are on the brink of death

The rebel-held city of Madaya has been choked off by regime blockades and landmines

Residents weep at the sight of food trucks, a U.N. source says

CNN  — 

Shortly after aid trucks finally reached Madaya, the situation turned out to be even more dire than expected.

Hundreds of civilians in the besieged Syrian city are on the brink of death, said Stephen O’Brien, U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs,

“… we found some 400 people who must be evacuated IMMEDIATELY for medical treatment or face dying #Syria,” O’Brien tweeted.

Madaya has been ravaged by starvation in the Syrian civil war. The rebel-held city has been choked off by the regime and landmines.

On Monday, the city of 40,000 received its first shipment of foreign aid since October. The sight of food trucks brought starving residents to tears, a U.N. source told CNN.

The U.N. Refugee Agency said 49 vehicles were delivering aid to Madaya.

According to SANA, Syria’s state news agency, 65 trucks loaded with aid supplies entered Madaya and two other besieged towns, Foua and Kefraya.

“It’s heartbreaking to see so many hungry people,” said Sajjad Malik, the UNHCR representative in Syria. “It’s cold and raining but there is excitement because we are here with some food and blankets.”

Shocking images of starving residents of the rebel-held city – under siege by Syrian regime forces and their allies since July – have drawn international attention.

Graphic images of death and starvation coming out of Madaya have not been independently confirmed by aid groups or CNN.

But the United Nations said last week that it had received credible reports of people dying of starvation and that the Syrian government had agreed to allow aid convoys into Madaya, Foua and Kefraya.

The situation has been so dire that a doctor told CNN that he has nothing to give his patients except sugar or salt water. In one video posted by Syrian activists, a skeletal boy, his ribs protruding, says he hasn’t eaten a full meal in seven days.

The convoy came from the U.N. World Food Programme, International Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent and had been positioned at the outskirts of the city. It was set to deliver enough aid to sustain 40,000 people for a month, WFP spokeswoman Abeer Etefa said.