U.N. warns on Syria’s Yarmuk refugee camp

U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees urged humanitarian access to Syria's Yarmuk camp

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The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees warned Thursday of “extreme human suffering” in Syria's Yarmuk camp, with state media saying “terrorists” had blocked aid from entering.

Since September, at least 15 people have died from hunger in the camp, which came under tight regime siege around a year ago after rebels took control of the area.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said food shortages continue and that the absence of medical care had led to women dying in childbirth.

“The profound civilian suffering in Yarmuk deepens, with reports of widespread malnutrition and the absence of medical care, including for those who have severe conflict-related injuries and... women in childbirth, with fatal consequences for some women,” he said.

“Residents, including infants and children, have been subsisting for long periods on diets of such things as stale vegetables, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water.”

He said residents -- both Palestinian and Syrian -- were experiencing “extreme human suffering in primitively harsh conditions,” and urged humanitarian access to the camp.

“Syrian authorities and other parties must allow and facilitate safe and open humanitarian access,” he said.

But state television said a convoy carrying aid for the estimated 20,000 residents trapped in the camp had been blocked from entering by “terrorist gangs.”

“Terrorist gangs in the Yarmuk camp prevented the entry of an aid convoy carrying some 5,000 food parcels for those trapped in the camp,” it said.

“The gangs opened heavy fire to prevent them from entering,” it added.

Yarmuk was once home to some 170,000 people but tens of thousands have fled since fighting began in the camp.

Syria is officially home to nearly 500,000 Palestinian refugees, around half of whom have been displaced by the conflict that broke out in March 2011, becoming refugees for a second time.

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