Over 3,500 UNRWA staff currently work in Syria, serving Palestine refugees in a situation of intense and ongoing armed conflict. On World Humanitarian Day, UNRWA wishes to recognise the heroism of these colleagues and to honour those twelve that have lost their lives as a result of the conflict.
UNRWA’s Yarmouk team is just one example among many of the courage and professionalism demonstrated by UNRWA staff in Syria. They are humanitarian heroes in the most literal sense. Every day, these women and men cross into an active battleground, facing shelling, armed clashes and sniper fire to deliver life-saving assistance to 18,000 trapped civilians. They comprise logisticians, labourers, doctors, nurses, security officers and mission leaders, all serving the people of Yarmouk with the highest standards of professionalism and courage. Many are former residents of Yarmouk themselves, working within sight of their own shattered homes.
Since first reaching the besieged area in January 2014 and following 12 months without access, this closely-knit team has successfully responded to widespread and acute malnutrition, typhoid outbreaks and civilian casualties, all while gunfire regularly strikes the distribution area in which they work. They have provided over 20,000 family food parcels, 15,000 polio vaccines, 5,000 hygiene kits and 1,000 health consultations since this emergency operation began.
Yarmouk remains a theatre of active conflict and, as such, UNRWA staff must continue to serve in a dangerous, high-risk environment. Nevertheless, morale remains remarkably high. As one Yarmouk mission leader put it: “The experience of working in Yarmouk weighs on our hearts - we have seen so much suffering among the civilians there, especially the children. But I am so happy to go there, to serve my community. We are a good team and we have the opportunity to save lives every day.”
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