UN agency alarmed by malnutrition among children displaced from Yarmouk camp

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UNRWA distributes life-saving assistance to displaced civilians from Yarmouk in Yalda, Syria. Photo: UNRWA

26 April 2015 – As the United Nations agency tasked with supporting Palestine refugees continued today to provide essential humanitarian assistance to civilians who have been displaced from Yarmouk and to those hosting them, evidence of acute malnutrition was found in a large number of children.

“We are extremely concerned about the patients we are seeing from Yarmouk and what it suggests about health situation inside the camp,” said Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

“UNRWA medical personnel established a mobile health point in Yalda near Yarmouk, treating 173 patients over the course of the day,” said Mr. Gunness. “One case of hepatitis A was detected and treated. Medical personnel detected acute malnutrition among three out of nineteen children (under-five) seen, representing a rate of 16 per cent.”

In a situation report it released today, the agency detailed successful humanitarian operations in Yalda, which included provision of 10,000 litres of drinking water and 1,200 bags of bread to Palestinian and Syrian families displaced or affected by conflict, and efforts continue to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians from Yarmouk who remain displaced in Tadamoun.

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.

The situation report said the vulnerability of civilians in Yarmouk remains of the highest severity, and Mr. Gunness stressed 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.

“We again demand secure and sustained humanitarian access to civilians inside the camp,” he said. “They have suffered enough. We cannot allow malnutrition to rise among children.”

As violence continues to profoundly threaten the lives and safety of Palestine refugees throughout Syria, UNRWA appeals 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.

Source: United Nations

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