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  • Palestinian children in Yalda, near Yarmouk, May 2015.

    Palestinian children in Yalda, near Yarmouk, May 2015. | Photo: UNRWA

Published 30 March 2016

UNRWA spokesperson Chrisophter Gunness reports that both food and medical aid to Palestinian refugees in Syria is continuing.  

As Palestinians march across present-day Israel, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Land Day, Palestinians who were made to flee to neighboring Syria by wars with Israel in both 1948 and 1967 are enjoying a measure of calm they haven't felt since the beginning of the five-year Syrian civil war.

Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East "continued humanitarian operations in the Damascus suburb of Yalda for the seventh consecutive week," spokesperson Christopher Gunness said in an email.

"A medical team and a dental team were deployed to Yalda [a refugee camp near the largest in Syria, Yarmouk] for the fifth and second time respectively since UNRWA was permitted to resume operations to serve Palestine refugees and other vulnerable civilians" from the camps near the Syrian capital.

An UNRWA mobile unit treated 251 patients, 135 men and 116 women, including approximately 70 children "for a range of non-communicable and other common diseases," Gunness said.

Related: US and Russia Making 'Concrete' Plans to Liberate Raqqa

Palestinian refugee camps have been hit hard by disease, due to a lack of medicine and capable doctors within their communities. At the beginning of the war, Yarmouk was home to nearly 150,000 Palestinians.

However, since the onset of the war, the camp has been controlled by the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda's branch in Syria the Nusra Front, and other violent groups, causing a mass exodus.

UNRWA was able to resume distribution operations in Yalda on February 13 for the first time since June 2015, two months after the Islamic State group took control of the camp. Although Yarmouk was largely freed of Islamic State group radicals by Syrian forces in that month, the camp remained under siege for months due to the fact that radical elements remained.

In December, a deal was reached between the Syrian government the remaining Islamic State group fighters, allowing the siege to end.

Gunness was happy to report that UNRWA workers have been able to distribute "5,700 food parcels during the first week, 19,160 blankets during the second week, 11,600 hygiene kits over the third week, and 6,000 food parcels over the fourth and fifth week," since being allowed access.

In addition, 1,105 Palestine refugees have received medical care through a mobile medical team, and 80 patients received dental care at UNRWA’s mobile dental clinic since March 9.

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