Urgent water and food shortage in besieged Yarmouk

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An estimated 20,000 Yarmouk residents are currently drinking contaminated water as the UN warns it may decrease food aid to Syria as funds fall short

Activists say water has not been delivered to Yarmouk refugee camp outside of Damascus for at least 10 days (AFP)
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Friday 13 February 2015 0:00 UTC
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The lives of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp are in jeopardy after the Syrian government has failed to provide drinking water for at least ten days, an activist in the camp said on Thursday.

"Death is threatening the lives of 20,000 civilians due to the water shortage, with no water around Yarmouk," Rami Sayyid told Anadolu Agency, claiming the humanitarian situation was worsening in southern Syria.

Sayyid said residents are drinking contaminated well water which health officials fear could cause the spread of contagious diseases.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly Palestinian women and children, live in the camp, which has been under a Syrian government forces and pro-regime militias siege since last September.

Located on the outskirts of Damascus, eight kilometres from the city centre, the camp accommodated more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees before the Syrian civil war started in March 2011.

Around 140,000 refugees have left the camp as a result of the war which has killed more than 160,000 people and displaced millions of others since then.

Beyond the immediate water crisis, the UN on Thursday warned that the food aid it provides to nearly six million war-affected Syrians is under imminent threat because of a shortfall in funding.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said it will be forced to cut the size of food rations it provides to needy families inside Syria and the number of refugees it supports in neighbouring countries if donor countries do not provide additional funds in the next few days.

"We have reached a critical point in our humanitarian response in Syria and in neighbouring countries," said the UN agency's regional emergency coordinator for the Syrian crisis, Muhannad Hadi.

"Unless we manage to secure significant funding in the next few days, I am afraid we will have no choice but to scale back our operation."

The WFP said it requires $352 million (273 million euros) for its operations inside and outside Syria until the end of the year.

Inside Syria, existing funds are sufficient to provide only a reduced food parcel in October, which will then have to be further cut in November. There are no funds at all for December.

In Turkey, as many as 170,000 refugees may go without assistance in October. 

In Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon assistance will be reduced, while in Egypt, only the most vulnerable will be assisted, unless fresh funds are received, the WFP said.

WFP's shortfall echoes pleas from UNICEF in July when the world's leading children's charity warned that it might have to cut vital services for Syrian children as result of lacking funds.