Statement attributable to Hanaa Singer, Unicef Representative in Syria on the besieged area of Madaya

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“Unicef welcomes the access granted to trapped children this week and can confirm that cases of severe malnutrition were found among children in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya following our participation in the second joint UN/Syrian Arab Red Crescent/ICRC humanitarian mission to the area on Thursday[1].

“Unicef is particularly saddened and shocked to have witnessed the death of Ali, a severely malnourished 16-year-old boy who passed away in the town’s clinic in front of our eyes.

“At the make-shift hospital Unicef visited, there were only two doctors and two health professionals working under overwhelming conditions. The Unicef team and staff of the World Health Organisation were able to screen 25 children under five for malnutrition using the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference measurement. Twenty-two (22) of the children showed signs of moderate to severe malnutrition.  All of these children are now receiving treatment at the health facility using specialized medical and nutrition supplies that the UN and ICRC delivered on Monday.

“The team screened another 10 children aged from 6 to 18. Six of them showed signs of severe malnutrition. A 17-year-old boy is in a life-threatening condition and desperately needs immediate medical evacuation.  A pregnant woman in her ninth month with obstructed labour is also in urgent need of evacuation.

“While the findings of this mission are by no means a representative sample and we cannot yet draw conclusions from it about the overall nutrition situation, it provides a real time reflection of the situation on the ground in Madaya. The UN teams together with SARC plan to continue the assessment on Sunday for further follow up.

“The people we met in Madaya were exhausted and extremely frail. Doctors were emotionally distressed and mentally drained, working round the clock with very limited resources to provide treatment to children and people in need. It is simply unacceptable that this is happening in the 21st century.

“Unicef and WHO teams worked with the health staff to establish a stabilisation centre and outpatient therapeutic services for the treatment of malnutrition. Health care workers were oriented on the protocols for treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

“While we express our shock over the situation in Madaya, let us not forget that across Syria, there are 14 other “Madayas”. These are locations where different parties to the conflict have been using siege as a tactic of war, depriving children and innocent civilians from accessing lifesaving supplies and services. 

“Separately on Thursday, Unicef as part of a UN, SARC, ICRC joint convoy, was able to send ten trucks with a similar range of supplies to two other besieged areas, Foah and Kafraya benefitting the estimated 6,000 children trapped in the area.

“Unicef reiterates its previous call on all parties to the conflict to lift the siege on communities in Syria and provide unimpeded, unconditional and sustained humanitarian access to allow teams to conduct assessments of health, nutrition and other humanitarian needs, the provision of on-site medical and nutritional therapeutic care and the immediate medical evacuation of women and children in critical condition”.


Notes for editors:

[1]As part of the convoy on 14 January, 24 Unicef trucks delivered blankets, children’s winter clothes, diarrheal disease kits, midwifery kits, and emergency health kits for 10,000 people. Additional supplies included school bags for 12,000 children, hygiene supplies including washing powder, soap, shampoo, water purification tablets. A previous delivery on Monday 11 January included therapeutic and other nutrition supplies that included multiple micronutrients, high energy biscuits and therapeutic food and medication for the treatment of severe and acute malnutrition.

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or

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