The first Red Cross convoys have begun delivering food parcels, medical supplies and blankets to the communities of Madaya, Foua and Kefraya.
Tuesday January 12, 2016
Red Cross volunteers worked late into the night distributing relief supplies to families on the brink of starvation in the Syrian communities of Madaya, Foua and Kefraya. Photo: ICRC
While some people smiled and waved as the aid convoys drove into town, others were simply too weak. Their weary expressions a sign of relentless hunger and hardship.
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In Madaya, 44 trucks brought enough food parcels to feed 40,000 people, together with baby food, high-energy biscuits, medical supplies and blankets. While the aid convoy to nearby Kefraya and Foua brought supplies for another 20,000 residents.
The life-saving convoys were a massive undertaking, with 140 Red Cross volunteers helping to pack and deliver the aid.
It is the first time that the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been able to access these towns since October. The operation was brokered by the UN with the agreement of the different parties on the ground.
Aid worker Pawel Krzysiek joined the convoy to Madaya, where people have been living for months with barely any food, water, electricity or medicine.
"It's really heartbreaking to see the situation of the people," says Pawel. "I was approached by a little girl and her first question was 'Did you bring food? I hope you brought food to Foua, Kefraya and Madaya because we are really hungry'."
While the first convoys have brought welcome relief, ongoing access to these and other besieged towns is an ongoing priority for Red Cross.
"The operation has started. It is likely to last a few days. This is a very positive development, but it must not be just a one-off distribution. To relive the suffering of these tens of thousands of people, there has to be regular access to these areas," says head of the ICRC delegation, Marianne Gasser.
"We have to remember that there are more than 400,000 people living in besieged area across Syria. The suffering is intense. Aid agencies must be given safe and unimpeded access to all these people to provide them with the aid they need, especially now in the midst of winter."