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On visit to Syria, senior UN official appeals for more support for humanitarian work

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl (centre) speaks to the press during a visit to Yarmouk Syria.
UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammed (file)
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl (centre) speaks to the press during a visit to Yarmouk Syria.

On visit to Syria, senior UN official appeals for more support for humanitarian work

Wrapping up a three-day visit to Syria, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations agency mandated to assist Palestinian refugees across the Middle East requested more support for work being carried out across the country, stressing that in Yarmouk “safe, uninterrupted, substantial humanitarian distributions must become the norm.”

As well as advocating for expanded humanitarian access, Pierre Krähenbühl, who heads the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), used the visit to stress solidarity with Palestine refugees and the Agency’s staff, who have endured extreme suffering during four years of conflict.

“The extreme hardship faced by Palestine refugees in Yarmouk, but also in other locations in Syria as a result of the armed conflict is, from a human point of view, unacceptable,” said Mr. Krähenbühl. “I reiterate my call on all relevant parties to support us in this effort by facilitating unhindered humanitarian assistance and access.”

In meetings with Syrian Government officials, the Commissioner-General acknowledged facilitation by Government authorities in enabling UNRWA to provide humanitarian assistance to crisis-affected Palestine refugees across Syria and emphasized that the continuation of regular UNRWA services, such as health and education services, and humanitarian assistance, adapted to the current conflict situation, is vital to protect the resilience of Palestine refugees in Syria.

“There has been too much suffering,” he said. “We have to remember that we are dealing with yet another generation of Palestine refugees facing the trauma of dispossession and displacement.”

On a visit to Yarmouk, he welcomed the resumption since 4 March of UNRWA humanitarian assistance to trapped civilians, thanks to a new distribution point established with the facilitation of the Syrian authorities. Distributions had been halted for over three months from early December 2014 to early March 2015, with reports of widespread deprivation and malnutrition among Yarmouk residents.

Calling on the Government to build on this support extended to Yarmouk’s civilian population, Mr. Krähenbühl requested that no limits be imposed on the number of days for distributions or on the number of families who may receive assistance on each day of distribution. He urged armed groups within the camp to actively ensure the safety of Palestine refugees and other civilians, and not to interfere with distributions.

“Despite progress in the assistance to civilians in Yarmouk, we remain deeply conscious that far more needs to be done to meaningfully address the needs and dignity of Palestine refugees,” he said.

The Commissioner-General, who underlined how crucial it was to find a political solution to the conflict affecting Palestinians and Syrians, visited the re-opened UNRWA Alma-Yarmouk School and other rehabilitated facilities in the camp, and went on to visit Qabr Essit, a Palestine refugee camp to which UNRWA recently regained access, as well as Husseiniyeh, from which the entire population had been displaced due to hostilities.

“I wish to express deep admiration for the courage and determination of Palestine refugees to whom I reaffirm UNRWA’s commitment to provide support and protection,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.