The World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked the Syrian government for permission to send mobile clinics and medical teams to the besieged town of Madaya to assess the extent of malnutrition and evacuate the worst cases, its representative said.
An aid convoy brought the first food and medical supplies for months to the town, where thousands are trapped and local doctors say some have starved to death.
Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Damascus who went into Madaya in a UN convoy, said the agency needed to do a “door-to-door assessment” in the town of 42,000 people, where a Syrian doctor told her 300-400 needed “special medical care”.
“I am really alarmed,” Hoff said, speaking by telephone from the Syrian capital, where she has been based since July 2012.
“People gathered in the market place. You could see many were malnourished, starving.
"They were skinny, tired, severely distressed. There was no smile on anybody’s faces. It is not what you seen when you arrive with a convoy.
"The children I talked to said they had no strength to play.”
An international aid convoy entered Madaya, where thousands had been trapped for months without supplies.
The WHO brought in 7.8 tonnes of medicines including trauma kits for wounds and medicines for treating both chronic and communicable diseases, including antibiotics and nutritional therapeutic supplies for children, Hoff said.
“The female doctor said mothers had absolutely no milk for breastfeeding, the milk had dried up and the babies are not satisfied,” Hoff said.
Many malnourished people were too weak to leave their homes.
“We need to go in with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent for a door-to-door assessment,” Hoff said.
“If there are these cases we need to verify and make sure they get urgent treatment.
“I sent an immediate request to authorities for more supplies to be brought in. We are asking for mobile clinics and medical teams to be dispatched.
“We need unhindered, sustained access, the only thing that will help in the long term is lifting the siege.”
WHO delivered 3.9 tonnes of aid each to Foua and Kafraya, two villages in Idlib province encircled by rebels fighting the Syrian government.
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