Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus February 4, 2014
Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) at the besieged al-Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus February 4, 2014
News   /   Syrian Crisis

Polio vaccination has begun in the besieged Yarmouk camp, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said Wednesday.

Yarmouk, a once bustling residential and commercial district south of Damascus, home to both Syrians and Palestinians, had been largely sealed off for months before a deal that allowed a trickle of food and medical aid in beginning last month.

The neighborhood’s grim death toll from hunger and lack of medical care topped 100, activists said, but UNRWA has now begun moving both food parcels and medicine into Yarmouk.

UNRWA spokesman "Chris Gunness" said "we are pleased to announce that UNRWA has secured the formal authorization for the transfer of 10,000 polio vaccines to Yarmouk", adding "this process has been completed without incident and the vaccination of thousands of children in the camp is now underway".

Gunness said food distributions that began on Jan. 18, haltingly at first before picking up speed in recent days, continued Wednesday, noting that 5,194 food parcels had been distributed to the camp since UNRWA gained access.

He said Some 1,500 people have left the camp under the deal with the Syrian authorities, according to a Palestinian official, although they require approval to do so.

Residents of the camp who said the death toll from starvation and a lack of medicine had now topped 100 people despite the entry of food aid noted that the dehydration cases alone required specialized medical care that the camp lacked.

Once home to some 150,000 Palestinians, as well as Syrians, Yarmouk has been devastated by the fighting, and now just 18,000 civilians are thought to remain inside.

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