Madaya, martyr city

Last monday, a humanitarian convoy finally entered the city of Madaya.

The operation has finally succeeded after the massive spread of pictures on the internet these last weeks, showing the horror of life in the besieged city of Madaya in Syria, at the borders of Lebanon. This non-censured spread of a ghost city created a live reaction that quickly became international in the media and social media which finally allowed the NGOs to act. Since July 2015 the Syrian Army and the Lebanese Hezbollah took control of the city which has a population of 40 000. They mined the fields around the city and controled all food entries at the doors of Madaya. The corrupt military sell on the food using overinflated prices. For instance these last weeks a kilo of flour cost 90€.

These measures had for consequence an extreme famine ; according to Médecins sans frontières (MSF) 28 peoples, including six children died from hunger since the first December of 2015. The boss of humanitarian operation at UNO, Stephen O’Brien announced that UNO had demanded the Syrian government authorization to evacuate 400 civilians particularly ill, suffering mostly from malnutrition. In beginning of winter, the situation considerably worsened due to the fall of temperatures. These last weeks the population was left to eat stray cat and dogs or water mixed with spices. The rare health centers and doctors have no more medicine and can give as only remedy salty water to their patients. The representative of the high commission for refugees, Sajjad Malik from Damas declared « What we have seen is horrible enough, there was no more life. All was very calm. Credible reports state that people died of hunger. »

Due to the urgency of the situation (last convoy brought by a humanitarian institution was in October) last Monday, the Syrian Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN distributed food into the city. According to the UNO, only 10% of the humanitarian convoy obtains the right to entry into besieged communities in Syria. This right of entry does not depend on the organization itself but on a political accord between the armed forces. Another difficulty resides in the bringing of food ; the famine creates tensions. On the 7th of January 2016, a distribution of food in Madaya almost turned into a mutiny.

According to the United Nations, almost 400 000 Syrians are being besieged today in the whole country, of which a large majority by jihadists from ISIS mostly in the East of the country. A bit less than 200 000 civilians are under the control of this regime. On the 25th of January a meeting between the representatives of the regime and the rebels is being organized by the UNO. The organization would like to revive the negotiations between rebels and the regime. The negotiations seem difficult as the regime denies the situation. Syrian ambassador Bachar Jaafari even declared : “No civilians died of starvation in Madaya.” opposing himself once again to the authenticity of the images. However the seeing of these skeletal children with empty faces, announcing that they have not eaten in five days, can only haunt and give the will to react.

Julia Lazarus

Sarah Ben Ammar