The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said on Thursday that the Palestinian residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus are experiencing "extreme human suffering" as a result of the civil war that has been raging in Syria for nearly three years, according to the Arab news site Rai Al-Youm (Today's Opinion).
Opposition fighters now control most areas of the Yarmouk camp, and for the past year, regime forces have placed the camp's Palestinian residents under a strict siege. To make matters worse, UNRWA has been unable to deliver any aid since last September, and at least 15 people have since died of hunger.
This week, another humanitarian aid convoy was prevented from reaching the camp. Rai Al-Youm cited Syrian state television reports, which stated that a convoy carrying aid for the 20,000 people currently trapped in the camp had been stopped by "terrorist gangs", the term that Damascus uses to refer to all opposition fighters. The regime's report claimed that: "terrorist gangs in the Yarmouk refugee camp opened fire at a convoy carrying five thousand rations of aid to those who are trapped in the camp, preventing it from reaching its destination."
However, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness appealed to both the Syrian authorities and other parties to allow and facilitate secure humanitarian access to the camp.
According to Lebanon's the Daily Star newspaper, Gunness explained that: "The profound civilian suffering in Yarmouk deepens, with reports of widespread malnutrition and the absence of medical care, including for those who have severe conflict-related injuries and… women in childbirth, with fatal consequences for some women." He added that: "Residents, including infants and children, have been subsisting for long periods on diets of such things as stale vegetables, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water," warning that residents, both Palestinian and Syrian, are experiencing "extreme human suffering in primitively harsh conditions".
Last month, Gunness told Agence France Presse that at least 15 Palestinian refugees in the besieged refugee camp had died because of malnutrition since September 2013.
The Yarmouk refugee camp usually houses about 170 000 people, but since the civil war broke out, tens of thousands have left the camp to flee the fighting. The Daily Star noted that out of the nearly 500,000 Palestinians who used to live in Syria, nearly half of them have been displaced by the conflict, becoming refugees for the second time.