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Syria: for first time in months, UN agency delivers aid to residents of Yarmouk camp

14 February 2016 – The United Nations relief agency charged with the well-being of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East has been able to deliver urgently needed humanitarian supplies to the civilian residents of the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the outskirts Damascus, for the first time in nine months.

"Although we did not enter the camp itself, were able to reach the nearby area of Yalda, where 900 families from Yarmouk, Yalda and the neighbouring areas of Babila and Beit Saham were provided with a 35 kilogram food parcel," according to Chris Gunness, Spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

In a press statement yesterday he noted that the camp had been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group on 1 April last year. And although some humanitarian assistance had entered the areas since the last UNRWA distribution in June, 2015, humanitarian needs remain acute, he stressed.

"There are clear indications that disease is on the rise, particularly among the most vulnerable such as children. There is an acute lack of medicines to treat them," Mr. Gunness explained, noting that one resident told UNRWA aid workers: 'People are getting sick all the time, especially the kids with hepatitis. We do not have the health services here to treat them.'

Mr. Gunness said the community also indicated that food, non-food items, particularly winter blankets and clothing, but also water, sanitation and healthcare items, were the greatest priorities. UNRWA plans to continue distribution operations today, aiming to provide 6,000 families with food parcels by the end of the week. The following week, the agency hopes to distribute winter blankets, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and establish mobile health points, he said.

"UNRWA is coordinating closely with other humanitarian partners and hopes this renewed access, facilitated by the Syrian authorities, will lead to sustained operations in the area," said Mr. Gunness.

He went on to stress that as armed violence continues to threaten the lives and safety of Palestine refugees throughout Syria, the agency appeals for donors to increase their support to the UNRWA Syria Emergency Appeal. More than 95 per cent of Palestine refugees now rely on UNRWA to meet their daily needs of food, water and healthcare.

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