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Starving to Death: Images from Madaya, Syria, You Don't Want to See

Forty thousand people live in this Syria town, Madaya, where they have been starving to death and surrounded by landmines for the past six months. Photo credit: Madaya page on Facebook

Forty thousand people live in this Syria town, Madaya, where they have been starving to death and surrounded by landmines for the past six months. Photo credit: Madaya page on Facebook

Forty thousand people, living in the Syrian town of Madaya, in the Qalamoun mountain range, are reportedly dying from starvation as the world watches in silence, activists say. The small mountainous town, 1,400 metres above sea level, is located 40 kilometres north of Damascus in the governorate of Rif Dimashq, alongside the Lebanese border, and has been besieged by Syrian government forces backed by Hizbulla militia, who are preventing food and aid from reaching it since July.

It is at the centre of a struggle between different factions embroiled in fighting across Syria, and its people are paying the price.

In a report published yesterday, along with harrowing photographs of starving Syrians and Madaya residents who have died from starvation, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) explained what was happening (Editor's note: Global Voices has chosen to not republish the photos because of their graphic nature):

People of Madaya city are still starving to death since 174 days due to the strict siege by regime forces and Hezbollah, the city contains 40,000 people including 20,000 civilians who fled their houses in Zabdani which witnessed violent clashes and heavy bombardment by regime forces and air forces.

SOHR observed hundreds of landmines planted by Hezbollah and al-Assad forces around Madaya city in addition to cutting the city off the surrounding areas by barbed wires and high wires to prevent any stealing in or out operations, the city contains 1200 chronic medical conditions, and 300 children suffering malnutrition and different medical conditions, amid sharp lack of medical and food supplies what caused a dramatic rise in the prices of food supplies, 1 kg of sugar or rice costs 3600 SP which is about 90 USD, SOHR documented the death of 17 civilians including women and children due to the lack of food and medicine, or by landmines, and snipers during attempts to gather food around the town.

News reports say the people of Madaya have been eating leaves from plants, insects, and even cats, after their food has run out. On its Facebook page, Hand in Hand for Syria paints a more horrid picture:

Most of the photos coming out of the small town of Madaya (in the suburbs of Damascus) are too graphic to share. Shocking images depict the true face of human desperation; people reduced to mere skeletons – with sunken eyes and protruding rib-cages, waiting for death to claim their name next.

For the past 6 months, the people of Madaya have been living under siege. Crops and food supplies have dwindled, leaving nothing but desperation behind. The remaining food in the town has become so expensive that most people simply cannot afford to buy food to eat.

They started by boiling crops. When the crops finished, they would boil grass and plants…then insects. When the malnutrition became unbearable, people began to resort to eating cats.


To date, starvation has claimed the lives of more than 50 people in the town. Malnutrition is rife, and with the cold winter weather starting to set in, thousands of people are at an increased risk of developing hypothermia.

But the world is not flinching, according to blogger BSyria, who notes:

According to Raed Bourhan, a Syrian fixer who is based in Beirut, Lebanon, winter setting in is further exacerbating an already dire situation in Madaya:

In another tweet, he shares photographs of children “robbed of their rights” as the war continues in Syria:

And a third tweet explains how prices of food have skyrocketed in the besieged areas, which are surrounded by landmines and snipers who prohibit residents from leaving:

Madaya's own Facebook page has launched an appeal calling on activists to protest in solidarity with Madaya in front of Russian embassies (Russia has undertaken airstrikes in Syria) and United Nations offices:

An invitation to activists and human rights and humanitarian organizations around the world, and a protest in solidarity with the besieged Madaya in front of the Russian embassys and UN offices.

Another post pleads with the world to save the children of Madaya:

A Syrian child from Madaya, besieged for the past six months. Photo credit: Madaya page on Facebook

A Syrian child from Madaya, besieged for the past six months. Photo credit: Madaya page on Facebook

On Facebook, Syrian Kenan Rahbani shares the photographs of starving Madaya residents and notes:

Sorry to post these graphic images, but I must.

These people aren't starving because they are poor, or because there is no food. Hezbollah and the Assad regime are starving the town of Madaya to death. It has been completely besieged and no food, medicine, or water is allowed to enter. The UN is right there but they can't get into the town because Hezbollah and the Assad regime won't let them in.

This is happening in the year 2016 in Syria. And ISIS has nothing to do with it.

And Syrian activist Rafif Joueati wonders how many more people need to die before the world acts:

She also asks:

And wonders:

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