UN says aid to thousands cut off by Syria unrest

11 May 2011

11 May 2011
Reuters

Unrest in Syria has forced the suspension of relief services to 50,000 Palestinian refugees in parts of the country, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said on Wednesday.

“This is affecting up to 50,000 registered refugees – 10,000 in Dera’a, 17,000 in areas surrounding Dera’a and 22,000 in Homs,‘‘ Chris Gunness told Reuters in Jerusalem by telephone.

It was in Dera’a that demonstrations first erupted on 18 March against the 41-year rule of the Assad family, spreading quickly to cities including Homs over the ensuing seven weeks.

Syrian tanks shelled a district of Homs on Wednesday, said a rights campaigner in the city which has emerged as the most populous centre of revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power since the death of his father 11 years ago.

“Yesterday we were able to transport a small amount of insulin to the south for diabetic patients that UNRWA is treating,” Gunness said.

“But because of the security situation we have not been able to distribute the insulin to all who depend on it and we remain concerned about our patients who rely on this life-saving drug.”

For the past two weeks Syrian authorities have blocked an urgent request from UNRWA for assessment visits to the Dera’a and Homs refugee camps, the spokesman said.

“We have been requesting this for two weeks from the relevant Syrian authorities but to date, clearance has not been granted on the grounds of security,‘‘ he added.

UNRWA runs 15 schools and half a dozen health centres and community centres in the affected areas named by Gunness.

It assists Palestinians who fled or were driven out of the homes in the war that led to the establishment of the state of Israel 63 years ago. Many of the people it helps in Syria are third or fourth generation refugees.

Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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