In light of dramatic photos of starving Syrians that have gone global, the United Nations is calling for "unimpeded humanitarian access" to hard-to-reach sections of Syria besieged by conflict.
In the last year, the world agency has received responses to only 10 percent of requests for such access, the U.N. said in a joint statement released Thursday, and attributed to Yacoub El Hillo, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, and Kevin Kennedy, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis.
In the statement, the U.N. said it plans to deliver humanitarian aid to Madaya, a town cut off by government forces since July, as well as Foah and Kafraya, two Shia communities besieged by rebels. About 42,000 people in Madaya are at risk of starvation, and one 53-year-old man died of starvation while his family continues to battle malnutrition, according to the U.N.
"The U.N. has received credible reports of people dying from starvation and being killed while trying to leave," the statement reads.
The last aid deliveries to the three communities was in October, according to al Jazeera.
"We were living on trees, on plants," Majed Ali, a 28-year-old opposition activist from Madaya, told Reuters. "But now we are struggling in a snowstorm, and there are no more plants or leaves."
Ali told the news organization that his weight has dropped from 250 to 176 since the trouble began.
Madaya resident Abu Abdul Rahman told al Jazeera recently that he had not eaten in four days and that people in the community were eating pets as a desperate measure.
"There are no more cats or dogs alive in the town," Rahman said.
Medical professionals have told the DPA news agency that people are eating grass to survive, al Jazeera was reporting.
"We cannot provide milk for infants," Khaled Mohammed, a physician, told DPA, adding that a 10-year-old child recently died of malnutrition.
The issue escalated in the last week as images of emaciated children circulated via social media. In one video making the rounds, a child said he had not eaten anything in seven days.
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