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Madaya: UN aid convoy to leave for besieged Syrian town

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Written by Maritime First

… As ‘Doctors Without Borders’ Hospital in Yemen is Bombed, Leaving 4 Dead, 10 Injured

An aid convoy is expected to leave for Madaya, a Syrian town under government siege, where people are reported to have been starving to death.

“We are pretty confident,” UN refugee agency spokesperson Melissa Fleming told the BBC.

A convoy which had been due to reach the rebel-held town on Sunday was delayed by last-minute hitches.

Some 40,000 people are in Madaya, near Lebanon’s border, with residents said to be eating pets and grass to survive.

“I have just got confirmation that our humanitarian convoy will leave today,” Ms Fleming said.

“This is typical that it takes a while – the administrative hurdles are constant,” she added.

Meanwhile, Brice de la Vigne from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical charity described the situation in the town as “quite horrific”.

Mr de la Vigne, whose organisation has been in contact with doctors inside Madaya, told the BBC that more than 250 people there had “acute malnutrition”.

He added that “10 of them need immediate medical evacuation” or they would die.

The World Food Programme (WFP) earlier had hoped to take a first shipment of food and medicine to Madaya.

It was not clear what caused the delay but the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says negotiating access across battlefronts in a siege situation has always been a tricky business.

It involves agreement at the top political level on both sides of the conflict, as well as individual fighters on the ground.

A similar operation for two government-held villages in the north – Kefraya and Foah – has also been discussed.

Blockades have been a feature of Syria’s civil war but the plight of Madaya has drawn international attention, partly due to images emerging of severely malnourished residents.

Up to 4.5 million people in Syria live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged locations who do not have access to life-saving aid.

Madaya has been besieged since early July by government forces and their allies in Lebanon’s Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement.

In the meantime, a hospital in Yemen supported by Doctors Without Borders was bombed Sunday morning, leaving four dead and 10 injured, the organization said.

Three of those injured in the 9:20 a.m. (1:20 a.m. ET) bombing on the Shiara Hospital in the Razeh district were Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres/MSF in French) staff members, the aid group said in a statement.

The number of causalities could rise because people could still be trapped in the rubble, the statement said.

One projectile struck the hospital, and one fell near it, the statement said. MSF said the group couldn’t confirm the origin of the attack, but planes were spotted flying over the facility at the time of the bombing.

“All warring parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, are regularly informed of the GPS coordinates of the medical sites where MSF works,” said the group’s director of operations, Raquel Ayora.

She said that anyone with the ability to carry out an airstrike or launch a rocket would have know that the Shiara Hospital was a functioning health care facility.

“Bombing hospitals is a violation of international humanitarian law,” MSF said.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting the Iran-allied Houthi group in Yemen, leaving 6,000 dead since the Saudi coalition entered Yemen’s conflict in March, according to Reuters.

MSF said the Shiara Hospital had already been bombed once, before the group started supporting it in November 2015. Three other MSF-supported hospitals have been bombed in as many months, the organization said.

“We strongly condemn this incident that confirms a worrying pattern of attacks on essential medical services and express our strongest outrage as this will leave a very fragile population without health care for weeks,” Ayora said. “Once more it is civilians who bear the brunt of this war.”

In October, a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan was struck by fire from a U.S. gunship, leaving at least 31 civilians dead and dozens more injured.

BBC with additional report from NBC

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