Yarmouk residents waiting to receive food packets. Photo courtesy UNRWA.
The photo above shows a veritable sea of people gathered to receive food aid packets. It was widely shared on social networks over the past few days because it captures, in one image, the magnitude of the despair of residents of Yarmouk camp in Damascus. A video released by a UN agency shows the context:
In this video, Yarmouk residents rush to get their hands on food packets. An aid worker uses a microphone to ask them to move back, so that the distribution can proceed. Courtesy of UNRWA.
Yarmouk camp is caught between the two sides of the Syrian conflict
and has been under siege for months. Residents are severely lacking in food and basic supplies. It is home to both Palestinian refugees and impoverished Syrians. Aid has been trickling in very slowly, because shootouts – which the rebels and the Syrian army blame on each other
– frequently force aid convoys to turn around. However, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was able to resume distributing aid at the camp on Monday. It had been several weeks since its workers had last been able to go in.
UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Filippo Grandi, was among those who went into Yarmouk on Monday. He said in a statement
: “I am deeply disturbed and shaken by what I observed [Monday]. The Palestine refugees with whom I spoke were traumatised by what they lived through, and many were in evident need of immediate support, particularly food and medical treatment.”
So far, according to its spokesperson, the UNRWA has distributed nearly 8,000 food packets, as well as thousands of polio vaccines and other medical supplies.