Heartbreaking video released by UNICEF reveals an up-close look at the malnutrition children are facing in the besieged town of Madaya, Syria.
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When World Health Organization staff screened 25 children under the age of 5 for malnutrition, 22 of the children showed signs of moderate to severe malnutrition, UNICEF said.
"All of these children are now receiving treatment at the health facility using specialized medical and nutrition supplies that the U.N. and ICRC delivered on Monday," said UNICEF representative Hanaa Singer, referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The staff also screened 10 children aged 6 to 18 -- and six of those children showed signs of severe malnutrition, Singer said.
“While the findings of this mission are by no means a representative sample and we cannot yet draw conclusions from it about the overall nutrition situation, it provides a real-time reflection of the situation on the ground in Madaya," Singer said.
In the video, a boy removes his t-shirt, revealing his rib cage protruding from his small body.
"The people we met in Madaya were exhausted and extremely frail," Singer said. "It is simply unacceptable that this is happening in the 21st century."
In December, 23 people died of starvation in Madaya, Doctors Without Borders said today.
Five died Jan. 10, and two others died Jan. 11 as the first humanitarian convoy was en route, Doctors Without Borders said. Five more have died from starvation since the convoy arrived, they said.
Doctors Without Borders said its medics have identified 18 patients who will die "unless they are evacuated and treated immediately." The group is calling for the critically malnourished and sick to be evacuated immediately for treatment.
Beyond Madaya, 450,000 people are living under siege throughout Syria, according to the United Nations.
"Across Syria, there are 14 other 'Madayas,'" Singer said. "These are locations where different parties to the conflict have been using siege as a tactic of war, depriving children and innocent civilians from accessing lifesaving supplies and services."