Starvation and dehydration plagues Syria's Yarmouk residents
Up to 10,000 civilians in Syria's Yarmouk camp in Damascus have gone without food and water for more than a week, the United Nations relief agency warned, as fighting continues to rage on in the city underscoring the fragility of the ceasefire.
The UN warned that humanitarian conditions are "desperate" inside the camp.
"Civilians in Yarmouk are facing starvation and dehydration alongside the heightened risks of serious injury and death from the armed conflict" which has continued unabated for 10 days, said Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The camp, a built-up neighbourhood once home to an estimated 150,000 people, has been ravaged by fighting between the Islamic State [IS] group and al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, while government forces regularly shell it from outside.
"Whatever supplies of food and water they had have long been exhausted," Gunness said, adding that people are trapped in their homes, hunkered down to avoid being hit by bullets and shrapnel.
The Syrian regime has also cut off water supplies from the camp for more than 500 days and residents have been unable to get hold of any bottled water due to the clashes.
According to Jafra Foundation, a relief and youth development organisation based in Damascus, all ground water has become contaminated and hundreds of children are suffering from typhoid, jaundice and hepatitis.
|The Syrian regime has also cut off water supplies from the camp for more than 500 days and residents have been unable to get hold of any bottled water due to the clashes.|
Established in 1957 to accommodate refugees who were scattering in mosques, schools and other public places, the Yarmouk camp, once a thriving neighbourhood, is home to the largest Palestine refugee community in Syria, also housing thousands of Syrians.
Located eight kilometres from the centre of Damascus, Yarmouk resembles an urban quarter and looks very different to other Palestine refugee concentrations in Syria.
Over the years, refugees improved their shelters and added more rooms to them.
But today, the camp is crowded with cement block homes and is densely populated.
"Most houses have no doors or windows, and in the snow storm life became harder. There is no wood, we are burning furniture and clothes to keep warm" explained Raed'a who lives in the camp.
"To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood," said Anas, another resident.
|To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood.|
Yarmouk has witnessed widespread violence since 2012 when a siege was imposed on the camp by the Syrian army.
In April 2015, IS militants, in alliance with members of the al-Nusra Front, captured parts of Yarmouk, later facing resistance from Palestinian factions and pro-government forces.
However, last week, IS once again stormed the area, "taking control of 60 percent of the camp," the Palestine Liberation Organisation [PLO] chief in Damascus, Anwar Abdel Hadi said.
Residents of the camp have called on international human rights organisations to save them from the violence after days of clashes.
"We call on the PLO, the Palestinian factions and UNRWA to shoulder their responsibilities towards the ongoing suffering in the camp and not to bury their heads in the sand when we haven't heard a word from them about the current tragedy in the camp," read a statement.
Residents have also called on the militants to halt fighting for six hours to give them a chance to escape into safe areas and to re-supply families with food and medical needs.