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The UN said it was preparing to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days to the town of Madaya, which is being besieged by pro-government forces, and to two Shi'ite towns in the province of Idlib which are under rebel siege.
The mountain border town of Madaya has been besieged since early July, and conditions have worsened with colder weather and dwindling supplies. A snowstorm hit early in the new year, and there has been no electricity or diesel fuel. People have taken to removing interior doors in their homes and burning them for heat, said a local official who identified himself as Samir Ali.
He told The Associated Press via Skype that the cost of goods has soared, with a kilogram of crushed wheat selling for about $250 and 900 grams of powdered milk for infants going for about $300. A group of people recently killed a dog and ate it, he said.
Of 23 deaths in Madaya in recent weeks, 10 were attributed to a lack of food and the rest were either shot to death or blown up by mines planted by pro-government and Hezbollah forces, said Rami Abdurrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group. At least 25 checkpoints prevent people from leaving, Ali said.