Unable for more than a month now to deliver food and other supplies to Palestinians trapped in a refugee camp near Damascus, the United Nations agency tasked with ensuring their well-being said today it is urgently seeking to resume its humanitarian activities, warning that the civilians would likely go hungry.
“UNRWA's distribution of food to civilian families in Yarmouk last took place on 23 May. The most recent…distribution of hygiene kits was on 7 June,” Chris Gunness, spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said in a news release today.
“This lengthy break in food distribution is of great concern to UNRWA as it raises the likelihood of civilians going hungry in Yarmouk,” he said, spotlighting the difficulties the agency has had trying to reach the more than 18,000 refugees following reports that a ceasefire had been reached in the camp on 21 June between the Syrian authorities and armed groups.
Today, Mr. Gunness said civilian residents of Yarmouk continue to contend with grave humanitarian conditions. “UNRWA is urgently to seek a resumption of its humanitarian activities inside Yarmouk and is appealing to the parties to the 21 June agreement to make this resumption possible.”
While the agency stands ready to implement a rapid humanitarian response to address the immediate and longer term needs of the civilians inside the camp, Mr. Gunness said that in the meantime: “The days have turned into weeks the weeks are turning into months. We have been transformed into silent witnesses to a human catastrophe in Yarmouk.”
Prior to the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, Yarmouk, in a Damascus suburb, was home to over 160,000 Palestine refugees. Since December 2012, fighting has caused at least 140,000 Palestine refugees to flee their homes in Yarmouk, as armed opposition groups established a presence in the area, with Government forces controlling the periphery.