In a three-day visit to Syria, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl expressed his solidarity with Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff, who have endured extreme suffering during four years of conflict, and advocated for the expansion of humanitarian access.
In meetings with Syrian Government officials, Mr. Krähenbühl acknowledged the facilitation of the Syria authorities in enabling UNRWA to provide humanitarian assistance to crisis-affected Palestine refugees across Syria and sought increased and sustained support for UNRWA work.
Noting that more should be done, the Commissioner-General stressed in particular that safe, uninterrupted, and substantial humanitarian distributions must become the norm in the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp..
He emphasized that the continuation of regular UNRWA services, such as health and education services, and humanitarian assistance, adapted to the current conflict situation, is vital to protect the resilience of Palestine refugees in Syria.
During a visit to the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, the Commissioner-General welcomed the resumption since 4 March of UNRWA humanitarian assistance to trapped civilians, through a new distribution point established with the facilitation of the Syrian authorities.
This followed a prolonged period of interruption in the distribution of humanitarian aid, lasting for over three months from early December 2014 to early March 2015, with reports of widespread deprivation and malnutrition among Yarmouk residents.
The Commissioner-General called upon the Government of Syria to maintain and build on this window to support the civilian population of Yarmouk.
He requested that no limits be imposed on the number of days for distributions or on the number of families who may receive assistance.
The Commissioner-General, after speaking with refugees inside Yarmouk camp, said that "the first message to Palestine refugees everywhere, including Syria, is my deep awareness of how long they have been waiting for a just and lasting solution to the injustice that was done to them historically".
He added: "When I see the situation here in Yarmouk and if I think of others in [inaudible], and I think in Dera'a, in Ein el Tal, and others, that we have a deep understanding for how isolated, for how the feeling is of desperation for them. But they must remember that we have the deepest respect for the courage and strength that they show on a daily basis. And from their courage and strength, we draw the determination to continue to assist them, to make a difference to their lives on a daily basis through distributions and assistance, but also to pass a message to the world that the injustice and the suffering that they go through cannot be forgotten. It is a luxury that the world cannot allow itself."
He said: "We saw the suffering in Gaza. We know the suffering throughout the whole region and we know of the suffering here in Syria and UNRWA will work very, very hard to continue the assistance, but also to bring the message of their suffering to the world so that they not be forgotten."