In less than 30 days, the 40,000 people in Madaya, Syria will be facing freezing temperatures with no food. Innocent victims in this border town near Damascus have been under siege since July from another brutal measure of this protracted war – starvation. They and the other nearly 8 million Syrians who have fled their homes and are trapped inside Syria must be helped now.
The UN World Food Programme, the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent mounted a convoy that finally was able to enter the city of Madaya last week. They brought enough food for its 40,000 people for one month, but too soon, as the worst of winter descends, nothing will be left. Unless there is a sustained effort to help the people of Madaya and the other besieged cities throughout Syria, thousands more will suffer and die.
According to Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, relief workers who entered the city discovered that hundreds of civilians were on the brink of death – “…some 400 people might die unless immediately evacuated for medical treatment."
UN President Ban Ki Moon said the situation is "utterly unconscionable." He added, "Let me be clear: The use of starvation as a weapon of war is a war crime...All sides – including the Syrian government, which has the primary responsibility to protect Syrians – are committing this and other atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law." Philip Luther, the Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International said: "These harrowing accounts of hunger represent the tip of an iceberg." He added: "Syrians are suffering and dying across the country because starvation is being used as a weapon of war by both the Syrian government and other armed groups."
The Syrian people have endured unimaginable suffering through five years of vicious civil war, and it just keeps getting worse. More than half of Syria’s 23 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria, and more than 4 million have fled and are registered as refugees in neighboring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and nearby Egypt. Hundreds of thousands more who escaped are unregistered. They, too, are desperate for survival and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. 80% of Syrian refugees are women and children – the most vulnerable of the population – and many are without food, shelter or protection as winter approaches.
For the people of Madaya, there is no escape. Reports indicate that rebel forces controlling the area prevented residents from leaving and stopped humanitarian aid from entering by setting land mines outside the town. When available food supplies ran out, villagers boiled leaves and grass to survive. When snow came and those meager rations disappeared, the most fragile among them – the youngest and oldest – were the first to perish. 31 deaths have been reported since December. If nothing is done to alleviate this situation, in a month’s time that number will climb.
You can help today. To learn more about the Madaya emergency, please visit the website of MFA member the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS): www.sams-usa.net/foundation. Make a donation, volunteer, sign their petition. The Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees joins SAMS in its call for emergency UN action.
MFA raises funds that provide food, medical aid, trauma and resettlement services for Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East. With the onset of winter, MFA is working with another Alliance member, the Rahma Relief Foundation, to send warm blankets and clothing to help Syrian children survive the elements. Join us in providing winter kits by making a donation today. Visit our website homepage at www.multifaithalliance.org and click on the "Warm the Children Campaign" banner, which will direct you to the donation page.
You also can help by going to the Multifaith Alliance website (www.multifaithalliance.org), clicking the tab "Get Involved," then clicking "Write to your Congressperson." You are one click away from making a world of difference.
The Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), a project of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in cooperation with JDC, is a coalition of more than 50 faith-based and secular organizations. Our mission is to mobilize global support to alleviate the Syrian humanitarian crisis, heighten awareness of its growing dangers, and advance future stability in the region. MFA conducts crisis-related briefings in the U.S. and abroad, facilitates relationships between complementary partner organizations working to help Syrian war victims, and nurtures transformative people-to-people diplomacy in the region.