The Secretary-General has today strongly condemned the shelling and aerial bombardment of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which occurred despite assurances from the Syrian Government that the camp would not be targeted while civilians remained inside.
“Thousands of civilians in the camp are besieged by terrorist and other armed groups on the inside and Government forces on the outside,” said the Ban Ki-moon in a statement released today by his Spokesperson. “The Secretary-General calls on the Government to immediately end any military operation that could endanger the lives of civilians in Yarmouk camp and abide strictly by its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians during armed conflict. He also calls on all parties to stop the violence so as to grant secure and sustained humanitarian access to civilians inside the camp.”
The statement urged the Security Council and Member States with influence upon the parties on the ground, including the Syrian Government, to do all in their power to protect civilian lives, and it underlined the importance of the Syrian Government adhering to commitments it has already made in order to maintain its role as an interlocutor for the international community.
Meanwhile, humanitarian efforts aimed at delivering critical relief to thousands of conflict-affected civilians trapped in Syria are continuing despite the ongoing hostilities in the region, the United Nations agency tasked with supporting Palestine refugees confirmed today.
According to a situation report, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) participated in a large, inter-agency convoy bringing humanitarian assistance to civilians located in the areas of Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham. Among those receiving relief are many civilians displaced from the embattled Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, the agency added.
“UNRWA has initiated a vaccine campaign for those temporarily displaced from Yarmouk to the nearby area of Yalda,” UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness explained. “Our medical personnel established a mobile health point in Yalda, treating 325 patients over the course of the day. The team vaccinated 28 children during the day.”
In addition to the medical assistance, UNRWA also noted that it had provided food supplies to two community kitchens sufficient to feed 900 individuals for one week and also delivered 1,200 packets of bread to civilians in the Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham areas.
Overall, UNRWA missions deliver a broad range of “critical” humanitarian materials to each of these families, including food, medical supplies, water purification treatments, mattresses, blankets, family kitchen sets and hygiene kits, and the agency also provides daily hot lunches for all civilians, complemented by regular distribution of canned food.
Against that backdrop, the UN agency warned that the vulnerability of those civilians still trapped in Yarmouk remained of “the highest severity” and voiced concern that without access, the most basic humanitarian needs of up to 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians continue to be left unmet.
As violence continues to profoundly threaten the lives and safety of Palestine refugees throughout Syria, UNRWA is continuing its appeal for donors to increase their support to the agency's urgent Call for Funds, which seeks an immediate injection of $30 million. The UNRWA Syria Crisis Appeal has received only 16 per cent of the funds it needs for 2015.
Chronic underfunding continues to undermine UNRWA's capacity to sustain life-saving emergency interventions, whilst responding immediately to urgent developments such as the one impacting Yarmouk since 1 April.