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Food Aid Welcomed In Besieged Syrian City Of Madaya


And this winter, images of starving children in Madaya captured the world's attention. That's a mountain town in Syria that had been under siege for seven months by Syrian government forces. Rajaai Bourhan is a teacher in Madaya. He spoke with us by phone about that siege.

RAJAAI BOURHAN: I saw many people dying and died from starvation.

MONTAGNE: Bourhan thought he would die of starvation as well.

BOURHAN: I lost 25 kilos, and I were about died. From a week to 10 days, I would die.

MONTAGNE: Twenty-five kilos - a 55-pound loss. But food finally started reaching Madaya in January, after humanitarian organizations struck an agreement with the Assad government.

BOURHAN: Rice, beans and sugar, of course - we had sugar.

MONTAGNE: Bourhan says that food is keeping people alive, but barely, since there's no meat or milk or other protein. Medical services are almost nonexistent, and Madaya is still encircled by government forces. I ask him about the new U.N.-sponsored cease-fire.

BOURHAN: We're not very optimistic about the new cease-fire. Nobody is optimistic. They think that the war will keep on, like in Iraq, like in Lebanon, like in Sudan, like in Somalia.

MONTAGNE: Still, he feels better every day, he says, when he's with the kids that he's teaching.

BOURHAN: Kids don't care. They don't care about food. They don't care about war. They don't care that they are sieged. They only want to have fun and to play and to study. And I like that about them. They give me strength.

MONTAGNE: "The children give me strength," he says. Rajaai Bourhan is a teacher. He spoke to us from the Syrian town of Madaya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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