NEW YORK – The United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees said today it has begun a large-scale polio vaccination campaign targeting thousands of children in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its partners have been attempting for months to take desperately needed aid, particularly food and medicines, to Yarmouk, whose 18,000 residents have been trapped for months amid the ongoing conflict in Syria.
“We are pleased to announce that UNRWA has secured the formal authorization for the transfer of 10,000 polio vaccines to Yarmouk Camp in Damascus,” said Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the Agency.
“This process has been completed without incident and the vaccination of thousands children in the camp is now underway.”
Mr. Gunness thanked all those who made this “life-saving development” possible. “It demonstrates that access to Yarmouk and all civilians in Syria can be sustained and that given the chance, the UN can make a real difference in the lives of real people – babies, children, women, the sick, the elderly, the dying – who have endured unimaginable suffering because of this pitiless war.”
UNRWA has also continued with food distributions in the camp, with over 800 parcels distributed yesterday. This brings to nearly 5,200 the total number of parcels delivered since 18 January, when the Agency was first permitted limited access to Yarmouk.
The Agency has also continued to transfer food supplements, such as iron in tablet and drop form, multivitamins and rehydration salts.
Prior to the armed conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, Yarmouk – a suburb just south of Damascus – was home to over 160,000 Palestine refugees. In December 2012 and in the months since, conflict has caused at least 140,000 Palestine refugees to flee their homes in Yarmouk, as armed opposition groups established a presence in the area, with Government forces controlling the periphery.