The Syrian government has besieged Madaya – a small town controlled by opposition forces an hour’s drive from Damascus – trapping residents inside without access to supplies, food, or services outside the town since July 2015, in violation of international humanitarian law.
During the government’s siege, Madaya’s 40,000 residents – roughly four times the town’s original population – have been surrounded by landmines, checkpoints, and snipers, forced to survive on the meager supplies and services available inside the town’s narrow boundaries. With inadequate food stores and medical care, they have suffered from starvation and malnutrition, and succumbed to disease, traumatic injury, and other life-threatening conditions.
Through May, at least 86 people have perished from siege-related causes since the siege on Madaya began – 65 from malnutrition and starvation, 14 from landmines, six from snipers, and one from a chronic health condition Almost all 86 could have been saved if they had had access to food, medication, medical equipment, and medical treatment by specialized health workers. But there is grossly insufficient food, medicine, and medical equipment in Madaya and two dentistry students and a veterinarian are left to care for the town’s 40,000 residents. The lives of Madaya’s remaining residents hang in the balance, with hundreds suffering the untreated effects of malnutrition, chronic health conditions, infectious diseases, and traumatic injuries.
Physicians for Human Rights and the Syrian American Medical Society demand that all warring parties in Syria immediately end their deliberate starvation of civilians and blocking of humanitarian aid. Members of the UN Security Council and the International Syria Support Group must demand and guarantee freedom of movement and unimpeded and constant access to all needed humanitarian aid and commercial access for Syria’s besieged population, from food to medical supplies to life-saving services. World leaders must support humanitarian agencies in pursuing every means possible – including airdrops – to deliver life-saving aid and services to everyone in need. Each additional day under siege causes untold suffering to more than one million Syrians and brings them one day closer to death.