March 19, 2014
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) delivered 465 food parcels to the citizens of Yarmouk refugee camp Tuesday, marking the first time humanitarian assistance has reached the camp since February 28. The halt in aid delivery coincided with the collapse of the camp’s fragile, 19-day ceasefire agreement, which gave way to renewed violence when Jabhat a-Nusra fighters re-entered the camp, having previously departed under the terms of the ceasefire. The group released a statement March 2 announcing that it would return to Yarmouk in response to pro-Assad fighters’ refusal to abide by the terms of the ceasefire, limiting aid entry and arresting civilians seeking to receive assistance.
Tuesday’s shipment brought the total number of food parcels delivered since January 18 to 8,173, according to UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, who added that the amount was “not enough, but we hope to do more tomorrow.”
“There are between 5,500 and 6,000 families in Yarmouk,” says Farouk a-Rafaai, a Yarmouk-based activist. “The amount of aid that has been delivered isn’t enough for half of them.” He tells Syria Direct’s Mohammad al-Haj Ali that the situation in and around Yarmouk is on the brink of transforming into “genocide by hunger and poverty.”
Children stand by a fire for warmth in Yarmouk. Photo courtesy of Chris Gunness.
Q: To what extent have the condition’s of last month’s ceasefire been fulfilled?
The truce was never implemented to begin with. The delivery of humanitarian assistance depends on the regime’s goodwill—it’s not included in the conditions of the truce. 3,000 parcels were delivered last month, and then they stopped. Then yesterday a number of additional parcels were delivered after a night of shelling and destruction.
We expected that the level of violence would dramatically decrease because of the ceasefire, but after what happened in Babila and Beit Sahim, we can never trust any reconciliations or truces put forward by the regime.
Q: How close do these deliveries come to meeting the camp’s needs?
There are between 5,500 and 6,000 families in Yarmouk. The amount of aid that has been delivered isn’t enough for half of them. More importantly, one food parcel doesn’t feed a family for more than a week. Southern Damascus is dying; if something isn’t done to stop this human tragedy, it could transform into genocide by hunger and poverty.
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