Yarmouk camp, once home to 160,000 Palestine refugees, suffered devastating destruction because of intense fighting in Syria. (File photo)
On the 5th Brussels conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and of the Region", the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reiterated its call to support Palestine refugees who are in Syria and in neighboring countries.
In press release issued on Monday, UNRWA said that since the start of the conflict, many of the Agency’s installations inside Syria, such as schools and health centers, have become inaccessible or sustained severe damage. Forty per cent of UNRWA classrooms have been lost and almost 25 per cent of the Agency's health centres are currently unusable due to the conflict.
UNRWA in Syria has also lost 19 staff members during the 10-year conflict, said the release.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini addressed attendees: “Today, 90 per cent of the nearly 440,000 Palestine refugees who remain in Syria live in absolute poverty. The more than 45,000 Palestine refugees from Syria who are now in Jordan and Lebanon are also amongst the most vulnerable people as both countries struggle with the impact of COVID-19. As we painfully remember ten years of conflict, UNRWA remains dedicated to rebuilding its infrastructure to serve the Palestine refugee community in Syria."
The annual conference seeks to generate international financial support to help meet the dramatically increasing humanitarian needs inside Syria, for Syrian refugees, and for refugee-hosting communities and countries in the region.
The United Nations and the European Union co-chair the annual conference which brings together governments and international organizations and Syrian civil society.
"Some 600 families have recently returned to Yarmouk camp; they live amidst rubble in very dire conditions. Ten years of conflict, displacement, soaring inflation, loss of livelihoods and now a year of COVID-19 all make their life untenable," said Michael-Ebye Amanya, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria. "UNRWA assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and in neighbouring countries is vital and often their only lifeline and their last source of support," he added.
UNRWA said that in 2021 it requires US$ 318 million to secure emergency humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan through its Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal.
Palestine refugees in Syria and those who fled the conflict to Jordan and Lebanon rely entirely on the Agency's services to survive their continued displacement, added the release.
“As most Palestine refugees from Syria are today at least twice displaced, UNRWA calls on the international community to continue to include them in all humanitarian plans and responses around the Syria crisis,” said the release.
While images of the destroyed Yarmouk Palestine refugee camp have become iconic, several others of the 12 Palestine refugee camps across the country have also seen entire neighborhoods severely damaged.
"Where Palestine refugees are able to safely return, UNRWA must be able to provide services while it also continues to operate health centers, schools and social services to those who have been displaced inside the country and into Jordan and Lebanon," added Commissioner-General Lazzarini.