In the rural Syrian town of Madaya, humanitarian groups say a dire situation has become even worse.
Food hasn't been delivered to Madaya, west of Damascus, since Oct. 18, and people there have been forced to eat cats and grass, aid workers say. Photos and videos are circulating online, showing emaciated people reportedly from Madaya, and Doctors Without Borders says as many as 23 people, including six children under 1, have died of starvation at a clinic it supports. Since July, Madaya, an opposition stronghold, has been besieged by pro-government forces, and people looking to escape have been shot or killed after stepping on land mines, Brice de la Vingne, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, said.
An estimated 20,000 people remain in the town, which de la Vingne calls "an open-air prison." Aid worker Hassan Abu Shadi told The Washington Post over the last week, one to two people have died every day of starvation, and after snow fell on the town, the little vegetation that remained became inedible. "There is nothing left but salt and water," he said. The United Nations announced Thursday that the Syrian government has promised to let aid get into Madaya "in the coming days."