32 starvation deaths in Syrian town: UN

The UN children’s fund UNICEF has confirmed cases of severe malnutrition among children in the besieged western Syrian town of Madaya, where local relief workers report 32 deaths of starvation in the past month.

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A mobile clinic and medical team of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is on its way to Madaya after the government approved an urgent request, and a vaccination campaign is planned next week, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Two convoys of aid supplies were delivered this week to the town of 42,000 under a months-long blockade.

The United Nations said another convoy was planned to Madaya, sealed off by pro-government forces, and rebel-besieged villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib next week, and that regular access was needed.

“UNICEF … can confirm that cases of severe malnutrition were found among children,” it said in a statement, after the United Nations and Red Cross had entered the town on Monday and Thursday to deliver aid for the first time since October.

UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told a news briefing in Geneva that UNICEF and WHO staff were able to screen 25 children under five and 22 of them showed signs of moderate to severe malnutrition. All were now receiving treatment.

A further 10 children aged from 6 to 18 were examined and six showed signs of severe malnutrition, he said.

UNICEF staff also witnessed the death of a severely malnourished 16-year-old boy in Madaya, while a 17-year-old boy in “life-threatening condition” and a pregnant women with obstructed labour need to be evacuated, Boulierac said.