Trapped in Madaya, Syria: Ask Me Anything
My short bio: We are now ending this AMA since it is night time in Syria. Please check out our live blog for future updates on Madaya Mom and her family. Thank you for participating: http://liveblog.abcnews.go.com/Event/Madaya In better times, Madaya, just 25 miles northwest of the capital Damascus, was famous for its pure, natural spring water and fresh fruits and vegetables. It sits 4,500 feet up on the mountains that separate Syria from Lebanon. Until recently, wealthy Syrians spent their summers in beautiful mansions there to escape the heat of Damascus. Today, the International Committee of the Red Cross describes Madaya as, effectively, an open air prison for an estimated 40,000 people. Since July 2015, Syrian government forces and its allies have besieged the town, imposing increasingly strict conditions on freedom of movement. Madaya’s population is mainly Sunni Muslim. The government in Damascus claims Madaya is home to fighters opposed to the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Chairs and desks in schools have been used as firewood, and with food supplies exhausted, its residents have been forced to resort to boiling leaves and grass to make soup. Doctors Without Borders says dozens of people have starved to death in the past month in the town, where a single biscuit sells for $15 and baby milk costs $150 a pound. The UN says starvation is being used as a "weapon of war" and amounts to “war crimes." It made seven requests in 2015 to be allowed to bring an aid convoy to the town, and got permission to deliver aid in October. After several more requests, the Syrian government allowed three more aid runs earlier this month. Despite the help, the United Nations says another 5 people have died in the past week of severe and acute malnutrition. Amid all the horrors of life in Madaya, families are fighting to stay alive. Over recent days, ABC News has been in regular contact with one of them. While they can’t leave the town physically, they can tell their story to the world. Throughtext messages and phone conversations, a heartbreaking picture of unimaginable suffering emerges. Before Syria’s civil war began nearly five years ago, their family was like any other around the world. Today, five children – including two teenagers – their parents and their grandmother, are engaged in a daily battle to get enough to eat. They can’t get out of Madaya – and we can’t get in. For their own safety, we’ve decided not to identify them. But they – and we – wanted to share their story. With Syria starving, this is the story of one family’s struggle to survive.