Inside Madaya: ‘It feelings deserted but you know there are people there’


Pawel Krzysiek of the International Committee for the Red Cross describes what he has seen after accompanying an assistance convoy into the Syrian town

Pawel Krzysiek, spokesman for the International Committee for the Red Cross in Syria, accompanied an assistance convoy on Monday to the town of Madaya, which has been besieged by forces loyal to the Syrian regime since July. Supplyings were delivered as part of a deal under which convoys also entered two Shia villages, Fua and Kefraya, the hell is surrounded by rebels. Krzysiek the following account, which is excerpted from an audio message he recorded after entering the town and a telephone interview with the Guardian while he was on the ground .

The first impression is truly heartbreaking. You watch a lot of people on the street, some of them smiling and waving to us, but many just simply too weak with a very, very bleak expression, very tired.

The trucks are offloading as we speak. We split up and are going to deliver aid to different local establishments who are managing distribution of humanitarian supplies. The ICRC will proceed to the local health committee to discuss how we can best accommodate the medical cases, how we can deliver essential medication for children, for chronic and acute cancers, emergency surgical items to the people who need it the most.

Its genuinely heartbreaking to watch the situation of the people. A while ago I was just approached by a little girl and her first question was: Did you bring food? I hope that you brought food to Fua and Kefraya and to Madaya because we are really hungry. And I believe her, she appeared hungry.

Its very dark here as there is no electricity. But I watch people on the street, girls, children, many of them are going and thanking us for coming, greeting us. But some of them were wailing and asking why so late?

People are asking us: Did you bring food? Did you bring food because all we have eaten last week is water with spices.

Its very heartbreaking, there is a certain exuberance but we only managed to bring in four trucks so far that we have offloaded. There are 40 trucks coming on the way, and 21 to Fua and Kefraya. It will be a lot of stuff coming in but the people are anxious, coming every five minutes and asking: Where is the food? Did you bring medicine? Did you bring newborn milk?

Some of them were showing us photos of relatives who are weak, and some of them were showing us what they ate yesterday, like water with spices and cooked grass. Its tough but in general I see that the people “re in a” positive mood.

We are talking to the medical staff and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is doing a great job. We will try to focus on those most vulnerable cases here and watch what will happen. The most important thing right now is to offload those trucks as soon as possible.

Its entirely black outside right now and people are burning trash to try to warm themselves a little bit. There are not much visible signs of fighting, it feels deserted but not abandoned. You feel you are in a deserted township but you know there are people there. It reminded me of Fallujah in a way.

Right now the people are just getting sick from illness that can be easily prevented and treated. You have pretty much everything here. Chronic cancers like diabetes, people weak, people swollen because they have to eat this water with spices. We brought the medication for chronic, acute and children cancers.

Our main main message is that this is not the long-term solution either for Madaya, Fua and Kefraya or any other besieged place. The most important thing is that we are able to access these places on a regular basis.

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