A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on January 30, 2014 shows residents of the besieged Yarmuk refugee camp receiving food parcels from the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) © - SANA/AFP
Last updated: January 30, 2014

Food arrives to starvation plagued Syrian refugee camp

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A food convoy gained entry Thursday to Syria's besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, where dozens have died from shortages of food and medicines, the UN and Syrian state media said.

UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness said 1,028 food rations had been delivered to the camp south of Damascus, in a "modest" launch of the rescue operation.

Each ration is enough to keep a family of eight going for 10 days, he told AFP.

He said earlier after the initial deliveries that there had been "chaotic scenes" as the food was distributed, the first to enter the camp since January 21, when UNRWA took in 138 food parcels.

Gunness said UNRWA hoped further convoys would swiftly follow as tens of thousands of civilians were in need.

"We are encouraged by the delivery of this aid and the cooperation of the parties on the ground," he said.

"We hope to continue and increase substantially the amount of aid being delivered because the numbers of those needing assistance is in the tens of thousands, including 18,000 Palestinians, among them women and children."

Syria's state news agency SANA also reported the aid distribution.

"New food aid has entered Yarmuk camp, with the application of a peaceful, popular initiative supported by the Syrian government to alleviate the suffering of the residents surrounded in the camp, taken hostage by armed terrorist groups," it said.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 86 people have died in Yarmuk in recent months from starvation or lack of medical care.

The camp is largely in the hands of rebel forces, and has been surrounded by a tight army siege since June, making it nearly impossible for food and medicines to enter or for residents to leave.

Residents have spoken of eating grass, cats and dogs in a bid to stay alive.

The camp began as a home for Palestinian refugees, but long ago evolved into a bustling district housing some 150,000 Palestinians, as well as many Syrians.

But now just an estimated 18,000 Palestinians remain in the camp, much of which has been destroyed by fighting.

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