The UN said it is preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance to the town of Madaya, which is being besieged by pro-government forces, and to two Shi’ite towns in the province of Idlib which are under rebel siege.
Medical staff and aid workers in the besieged Madaya have pleaded with international authorities to step in to save its 40,000 residents from starving to death, as they have resorted to eating cats and dogs.
Other have eaten leaves.
In the past month alone, more than 30 people have died of starvation or been killed trying to escape, according to activists.
Dr Mohamad Youssef, who acts as the manager of the medical council in Madaya, said two or three residents are dying of starvation every day, in addition to about 50 who are either fainting or becoming severely ill.
He said: “People are surviving by consuming water with sugar, salt, or spices if they can find any. The death toll is striking mostly the elderly, the women, and children.”
The worsening conditions have given rise to hepatitis, diarrhoea, skin diseases, and malnutrition-related conditions.
With scarce supplies and basic facilities, medical staff are severely limited in what they can do to help.
Dr Youssef said: “The medical staff are on high alert 24 hours. They are receiving people who are severely ill and fainting all hours — day and night.”
One of the only options was to administer saline solution, he said.
In October, 31 aid trucks with supplies for 30,000 people reached Fouah and Kafraya in Syria’s Idlib Governorate, Zabadani, and Madaya.
However, the situation has deteriorated and supplies have dwindled.
Dr Youssef said: “We ask the world and the aid and health organisations, and the UN Security Council, to act now to save the 40,000 people in Madaya who are starving to death in very cold weather.”