Dozens die of starvation in Yarmouk refugee camp
babelmed - 23/01/2014
In the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, only 8 kilometres from the Syrian capital, people are starving to death. Since over months, the camp is subjected to a dire siege by regime troops. This led to a deteriorating humanitarian and health situation, resulting in the deaths of 42 people from various causes, all of them linked to the blockade.
Yarmouk, south of Damascus, is the largest of the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, where more than 160,000 refugees lived until December 2012. Most have now fled the camp after armed rebel groups entered it, provoking retaliation from Syrian troops.
Palestinian and United Nations reports said around 18,000 people remained in the camp, which came under Syrian army siege in September
As the siege tightened, families were forbidden from entering or leaving the camp, and no food, medical, fuel or other supplies were allowed to enter. As the blockade became more severe, some of the opposition groups undertook acts of theft and seized food warehouses, and failed to provide relief to its inhabitants. The regime banned food or medical supplies from entering the camp from outside, allowing in only small amounts of milk for infants, and polio vaccinations for children only once.
The camp subsequently ran out of wheat and flour, and stocks of other types of grain began to dwindle, as did supplies of infants’ milk. The medical supplies needed were no longer available, nor were there adequate numbers of specialist doctors left. To make matters worse, the price of food rose to exorbitant levels due to the limited quantities available and the monopoly held by traders in the camp. This prevented many inhabitants from meeting their basic needs, suffering as they were from poverty and the fact that those outside the camp were unable to send in funds, due to the siege.
All of these factors led to a deteriorating humanitarian and health situation, resulting in the deaths of 42 people from various causes, all of them linked to the blockade.
According to the report by Palestinian Association for Human Rights in Syria, lack of food supplies is considered the main cause of death under the siege, with 29 recorded casualties. And a further 13 deaths due to lack of medical attention.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, has tried to give food and other aid to camp residents "amid reports of widespread malnutrition in Yarmouk, amid reports of women dying during childbirth because of shortages of medical care, amid reports of children eating animal feed to survive," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the agency.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said recently numerous attempts by the UN and other organizations over the past four months to deliver aid to the people in the camp have been thwarted. Pillay said that badly needed food and medical aid is not reaching malnourished children, women and elderly people close to starvation because of "a quagmire between besieging Syrian government forces and affiliated militias surrounding the Yarmouk camp, as well as anti-government armed groups operating inside."
However, finally food supplies began entering the refugee camp on January 18 for the first time in months. The delivery was made possible after an agreement was reached between representatives of Palestinian factions and Syrian rebels in the camp. Permitting access to humanitarian help is seen as an apparent goodwill gesture by the government ahead of a coming peace conference.