UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl is visiting Syria today, 12 April 2015, in coordination with the Office of the UN Secretary-General. The visit is prompted by UNRWA’s deepening concerns for the safety and protection of some 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children, as Yarmouk remains under the control of armed groups, and as civilian lives continue to be threatened by the effects of the armed conflict in the area.
Pierre Krähenbühl met with civilians displaced last week by the recent escalation. He visited a government school in Tadamoun which is serving as their temporary accommodation. Tadamoun is a neighbourhood on the eastern border of Yarmouk.
In conversation with Palestine refugees displaced by recent events in Yarmouk, the Commissioner General said, “Once again, I am deeply moved by the dignity of Palestine refugees in the face of adversity. More than ever UNRWA will stand by Palestine refugees in this most critical time." In a subsequent meeting with the Director-General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR), Syrian authorities' continued support for UNRWA's work was reaffirmed. UNRWA Commissioner General explored with GAPAR available options to enhance and sustain the humanitarian response to the evolving options to the situation in Yarmouk and in other Palestinian communities across Syria.
The Commissioner-General also consulted with ICRC on a range of humanitarian issues of mutual interest, including the situation in Yakda, Babila, and Beit Sahem south of Yarmouk.
UNRWA continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilians from Yarmouk who remain displaced in Tadamoun, and distributed kitchen sets to all families today. The Agency commenced provision of daily hot lunches for all civilians, complemented by regular distribution of canned food.
The intensity of armed conflict in and to the south of Yarmouk remains high, though it has reportedly decreased over the past days. UNRWA remains concerns that without access, the most basic humanitarian needs of up to 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children, continue to be left unmet.
UNRWA demands all parties to respect, and comply with, their obligations to protect civilians and demands the establishment of secure conditions under which the Agency can deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance.
UNRWA mobilized its emergency response team on April 1st to develop a range of response scenarios, including large displacements to areas where UNRWA does not currently have access.
UNRWA works closely with partners and UN Agencies to mobilize resources for a large-scale humanitarian response to support the civilians of Yarmouk.
UNRWA has prepositioned stocks of food, mattresses, blankets, and hygiene kits to respond to the most urgent needs as soon as access is granted.
UNRWA is working quickly with all partners to assess the situation of the displaced civilians to the south east of Yarmouk, in Yalda, Babela and Beit Sahm and respond to their most pressing needs.
CALL FOR SUPPORT
As violence continues to affect the lives and safety of Palestine refugees throughout Syria, UNRWA appeals for donors to increase their support to the Agency’s Emergency Appeal.
The capacity of the Agency to sustain life-saving emergency interventions, whilst responding immediately to urgent developments such as the one impacting Yarmouk since April 1st, is gravely undermined by chronic underfunding for humanitarian interventions inside Syria.
More than 95% of Palestine refugees now rely on UNRWA to meet their daily needs of food, water and healthcare.
Priorities interventions include cash assistance which enables UNRWA to access up to 470,000 Palestine refugees in need, including up to 39,500 of them currently living in hard to reach areas. This intervention will run out of funding after the distribution of second round of cash assistance in June.
Additional funding is also required for critical non-food items including blankets, mattresses and hygiene kits for all displaced Palestine refugee families throughout Syria.