Syria’s Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp is under siege, putting thousands of lives – including those of at least 3,500 children – at risk. The international community must act now to do everything it can to bring all the parties to the conflict to a ceasefire, make sure urgently-needed aid can get inside Yarmouk, and that injured children and families can be evacuated.
Islamic State (IS) fighters launched an attack on the camp on 1 April. According to reports, they’re now in control 90% of the camp, potentially giving them an important strategic foothold for them to launch an attack on Damascus.
Aid workers on the ground have reported witnessing many people lying in the street, with aid organisations and medics unable to help them because of the fighting. Children’s need for food, medicines and protection grow every day, but the camp is out of reach.
Nowhere to run
Aid workers, medical staff and Palestinian civilians have all come under fire in recent days. We’ve been informed that dozens of medical volunteers, aid workers and civilians have been killed and others kidnapped and injured, with some of them still missing.
“What we are seeing in Yarmouk is a travesty,” says Save the Children Regional Director Roger Hearn. “Palestinians inside Syria have attempted to walk an increasingly perilous tightrope to remain out of the conflict in Syria.
“For this they have been under siege, bombed, starved and slaughtered. The Yarmouk that I engaged with when working in Syria was a vibrant and dynamic place of hope. It is now a place of terror. The real tragedy is that Palestinians inside Syria have no place to run and no safe haven.”
Palestinians in Syria are unable to leave the country, as borders for them have been all but closed.
A desperate time
Hospitals inside Yarmouk are unable to provide any services after they were destroyed in the latest attacks, and medical supplies are fast running out. There are now no operational hospitals or medical facilities able to serve the civilian population trapped inside the besieged camp.
The attacks follow two years in which besieged civilians have had to endure scarce food, water and medical supplies. With hospitals closed, civilians need aid agencies to be able to reach them urgently. Injured civilians need immediate evacuation for treatment.
For those stranded inside the camp, this is a desperate time: if the international community does not do everything it can to help them now, the consequences could yet get even more tragic.