“We first heard rumours about typhoid from our partners in the Palestine Red Crescent Society, during our missions to distribute food in Yarmouk”, a senior UNRWA health staff member in Syria explains. In areas with adequate public sanitation typhoid, a common but often fatal bacterial disease can easily be prevented, but given the acute shortages of clean water in Yarmouk, our staff knew they had to move quickly to stop an outbreak amongst the 18,000 civilians trapped in the area.
Within 24 hours, working with its partner humanitarian organisation, Palestine Red Crescent Society, UNRWA transferred typhoid medicines sufficient for approximately 100 patients for treatment inside Yarmouk. Packs for a further 150 patients were distributed on 26 July. The medicines included antibiotics, syrups, tablets and syringes, as well as water purification tablets.
UNRWA also set up a temporary health point inside Yarmouk to monitor the situation and provide treatment for a range of other medical conditions. This was a breakthrough for humanitarian access as this was the first time UNRWA was allowed to deliver essential medicines and antibiotics to Yarmouk since December, 2012.
“We responded by meeting patients and relatives, and taking blood and water samples for testing”, reported the UNRWA staff member leading the response.
Of the 12 blood samples collected, four were widal positive for typhoid. “Since introducing medicine to Yarmouk, and investigating the prevalence of this disease”, our staff member continued, “the incidence of new cases is decreasing and under control.”
While in the area, UNRWA provided 1,497 residents with additional life-saving medicine to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension among others, as well as multivitamins and diet supplements.
Food distribution was above average in July, UNRWA was allowed to distribute food over 16 days in July. In total for the month 8,145 with each food parcel sufficient to feed a family of four for ten days. However, the positive trend has been curbed since August 9, as an upsurge of clashes in the area has halted the delivery of humanitarian aid.
UNRWA remains deeply concerned that the recourse to armed violence still frequently interrupts humanitarian operations in Yarmouk. The humanitarian situation remains desperate and UNRWA appeals to all parties to do everything in their power to end the suffering there. UNRWA stands ready to distribute food and medicine every day, when clearance from the authorities is in place.