01/19/2014 10:19 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

UN Confirms First Delivery Of Aid To Starving Palestinians In Syria

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

NEW YORK -- The United Nations has confirmed that a batch of desperately needed food aid has finally reached some of the thousands of Palestinians refugees who have been without live-saving essentials for months in a refugee camp in Syria's capital city, Damascus.

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which works specifically with Palestinians, reported at the start of the weekend that 200 parcels of food aid had finally made it into the camp.

That amount of aid, Gunness said, would provide one-third of the needed calories for 1,000 people for a month -- far short of the level of need at a camp where some 18,000 people remain, and dozens have perished from starvation.

On Sunday, a Palestinian organization announced that they had managed to evacuate several dozen of the most critical patients at the camp, the Agence France-Presse reported.

Last week, The Huffington Post reported on the dire situation at the camp, known as Yarmouk, where residents had found themselves trapped by the violent civil conflict raging around them, and besieged by government forces. Some families had taken to eating grass and spices to quell their hunger, news reports and the U.N. have said.

In the past few days, the U.N. has made repeated attempts to reach the camp with convoys of aid, but had found themselves repelled, either by government agents who barred their trucks' movements, or opposition groups who refused them entry to the camp.

On Jan. 13, Gunness said in a statement, a convoy of aid trucks was forced to turn back after it encountered heavy mortar fire on its route to the camp. The U.N.'s incident report implied that both sides of the Syrian conflict were at fault, but blamed the government for forcing its trucks to take a longer and more dangerous route into the camp.

"UNRWA’s position remains that Yarmouk must be open to safe, regular humanitarian access; that the civilian residents of Yarmouk must be granted free, safe movement; and that all sides to the Syria conflict must comply with their international obligations to protect Syrian and Palestinian civilians in Yarmouk and across Syria," Gunness said.



Syria War in January