UK airdrops 'cannot operate effectively' in Syria
The petitions, signed by 59,440 members of the British public asked the UK government to send aid following a growing humanitarian crisis in Madaya and other besieged areas in Syria. Local activists say the death toll in Madaya has risen to 54.
"No one who has seen the images coming out of Madaya and other besieged towns can say this situation is anything other than utterly appalling," the UK government’s response read, but said airdrops should be "considered as a last resort when all other means have failed."
The UK voted to carry out airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria leading to many, including Syria solidarity UK, to urge the government to "drop food, not bombs".
However, according to the UK government, airdrops are not that simple:
"There is a requirement to identify clear drop zones, ensure safe access for the intended recipients, and to co-ordinate with authorities on the ground," said the statement, which also called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to let aid into the areas his regime is blockading.
"When it comes to helping Syrians in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, we do not rule anything out but, right now, airdrops are not a viable way of getting help to those in need," they said.
"Russia in particular, must match its words to its actions and do more to press the regime for full humanitarian access."
The statement emphasised that "the United Nations, the Red Cross Movement and NGO partners are best placed to deliver aid to besieged and hard to reach areas."
Worsening situation in Madaya as UN unreachable
Meanwhile, aid agencies and the UN have been widely accused of failing to do enough to allow aid to enter besieged areas as the humanitarian situation worsens.
"The number of victims of hunger has risen to 54," a source in the local opposition council told The New Arab, adding that 75 people are at risk of imminent death from starvation.
"There are hundreds of cases of malnutrition and they need special care, such as children from the neighbourhood of Jobar, who are unable to live on simply milk," she added.
The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that children’s stomachs are swelling which often precedes death from malnutrition, adding that the food parcels from the UN were not enough to aid people suffering from hunger.
"The UN officials and organisations who have already promised assistance to hundreds of people suffering from severe malnourishment, are no longer answering our contacts," said the source, adding that they simply receive a message saying the UN is unable to respond at this time.
Meanwhile, at least eight people, mostly children, have died of starvation in nearby Moadamiyeh.
Local activists in the area are also demanding aid groups do more to help the deteriorating situation.