The reports of starvation coming out of Madaya and other besieged regions of Syria are horrific. Before today’s delivery, the approximately 40,000 people in Madaya had received almost no humanitarian aid since October 18. The situation is dire: at least 23 people – including six infants – have died from starvation, and thousands more are at risk. Desperate to escape these terrible conditions, some have attempted to flee, only to be killed or injured by land mines and sniper fire. The aid delivered today, while necessary, is nowhere near enough. And the UN now reports that more than 400 people in Madaya are on the brink of death and in need of immediate medical evacuation.
The humanitarian crisis in Madaya is but one more sign of the Assad regime’s brutality throughout Syria. Such suffering should not and need not continue. Time and time again, we’ve seen the Syrian regime promise to allow life-saving aid to reach starving people, and time and time again, the regime has prevented aid from moving. Indeed, in 2015 – in but one testament to the Syrian regime’s indifference to the welfare of its own people – Damascus did not even deign to respond to more than half of UN requests to deliver assistance across conflict lines. Blocking aid in order to starve civilians is grotesque – and but one more reason why Assad’s supporters should recognize that he has lost the legitimacy to govern the Syrian people.
As we have said before, the only way to stop the violence and end Syria’s conflict will be through a political solution, like the negotiated political transition outlined in December in UN Security Council resolution 2254. But while we work toward that goal, the Syrian regime must allow immediate and unfettered humanitarian assistance to reach all those in need, and the Member States of the United Nations must unite to pressure the Syrian government to grant that access now.