Yarmouk residents in "life-threatening" situation as U.N. fails to deliver aid

Published February 16th, 2014 - 08:13 GMT
Al Bawaba
Al Bawaba

A spokesman for the UN's Palestine refugee agency told Ma'an on Saturday that UNRWA has been unable to distribute aid in Yarmouk for the past week, leading to a potentially "life-threatening" situation for those trapped in the besieged camp.

Chris Gunness told Ma'an that "the fate particularly of women and children is of growing concern" as the Damascus-area camp suffers from widespread malnutrition and a lack of medical supplies after more than six months of siege by regime forces.

Gunness said that although UNRWA had managed to distribute 6,500 food parcels since being given access to the camp on Jan. 18, the food parcels were only meant to last ten days. Aid distribution was suspended following clashes on the night of Feb. 7.

He stressed that the people in Yarmouk are "desperately dependent on UNRWA for food and basic medicines," stressing that the UN "must have secure, substantial and sustained humanitarian access to the besieged civilians of Yarmouk."

"We have been encouraged by the cooperation among the parties which allowed us to resume aid to civilians in Yarmouk," in mid-January, he added, saying that he trusted that UNRWA "will soon be allowed to continue our distributions."

After rebels seized control of Yarmouk in December 2012, the camp became embroiled in the armed fighting taking place across Syria and came under heavy regime assault.

Regime forces eventually encircled the camp and in July imposed a siege on the camp, leading to a rapid deterioration of living conditions.

Thousands have fled the camp, while the remaining residents -- who are estimated to number around 18,000 -- have faced extremely severe conditions in recent months, with reports that dozens have starved to death.

In recent weeks, however, international organizations have managed to negotiate temporary ceasefires to allow for the distribution of food and aid in the camp, as well as the evacuation of residents.

The Syrian conflict, which began as peaceful protests in March 2011 but developed into a civil war, has killed more than 130,000 people and prompted millions to flee their homes.

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