Starving 20,000 at Damascus camp eating dogs, cats

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Updated 15 May 2014

Starving 20,000 at Damascus camp eating dogs, cats

BEIRUT: Starvation and illnesses exacerbated by hunger or the lack of medical aid in a Palestinian camp in Damascus besieged for months by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have killed at least 85 people, activists said Wednesday.
The Yarmouk camp, located on the southern edge of the Syrian capital, is one of several opposition areas where humanitarian conditions have crumbled under a tight blockade imposed by pro-government forces. Activists and aid groups have accused the military of using starvation as a weapon of war.
According to residents, some 20,000 people in the camp are so desperate for food that many eat stray animals, and some women have resorted to prostitution.
“Many here have slaughtered and eaten cats and dogs, and even a donkey,” said Yarmuk resident Ali, who was a university student when Syria’s revolt erupted in 2011. “One man who killed a dog couldn’t find any meat to eat on its body, because even the dogs are starving,” he told AFP. “What was unimaginable a few months ago is normal now.”
When war spread to areas of Damascus in the summer of 2012, thousands of people from other parts of the capital fled to Yarmouk, swelling its population further.
Yarmuk soon became a war zone too, as Syrians taking up arms against Bashar Assad’s regime moved into the camp. In June, the army imposed a total blockade on Yarmouk, which covers an area of just over 2 sq. km.
“The situation is so desperate that women are selling their bodies to men who stocked up food before the siege was imposed, for just a cup of rice or bulgur,” said Ali. “Imagine the feeling of a father unable to feed his children, as they wail from hunger,” he added.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said the first person died in Yarmouk in June, and that as of Wednesday a total of 85 people had perished there. Five days ago, activists and residents said the death toll stood at more than 60.
The need to open humanitarian corridors to ferry desperately needed aid into blockaded areas and to relieve civilian suffering has been one of the topics discussed at ongoing peace talks in Switzerland between the Syrian government and the opposition. Despite encouraging signs early in the discussions, no concrete progress has been made on that front.
Authorities recently allowed a few hundred food parcels into Yarmouk in what appeared to be a goodwill gesture ahead the peace talks, but residents said only a tiny amount of aid entered because government officials ordered aid workers to distribute the parcels in an area under sniper fire.
Also Wednesday, Turkey’s state-run news agency said the Turkish military fired artillery and heavy machine guns at a convoy across the border in Syria belonging to the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Anadolu Agency said the attack on the Islamic State vehicle was in response to gunfire that had targeted Turkish troops patrolling the frontier at the border in Kilis province. Turkish troops used tanks, self-propelled artillery and machine guns to destroy two trucks and a bus in the convoy, the agency said. No casualty figures were given.
The military declined to immediately confirm the report.
In October, Turkey’s military fired artillery at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant positions in Syria in retaliation for a mortar that had landed near another Turkish military post.
The Islamic State and another Al-Qaeda-linked group, the Nusra Front, have become a dominant force in Syria’s armed opposition, causing jitters in Western capitals and leading to a drop in international support for the rebels.

UNDP to focus on inclusive recovery in supporting Lebanon following Beirut blast

Updated 8 min 47 sec ago

UNDP to focus on inclusive recovery in supporting Lebanon following Beirut blast

  • UNDP will work on reducing the immediate impact of the blast on food availability for the most vulnerable
  • Assistance will complement urgent relief efforts of sister UN agencies in the first stage response.

BEIRUT: The United Nations Development programme (UNDP) said it will prioritize the restoration of livelihoods and small businesses; debris management; and access to justice for impacted vulnerable groups in the aftermath of the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut. 

It added that this assistance will complement urgent relief efforts of sister UN agencies in the first stage response.

Over the recovery period, UNDP will advocate for and support the implementation of socio-economic protection measures aimed at protecting the people of Beirut affected by the impacts of the blast as well as all Lebanese. 

Effects of the blast go far beyond the immediate vicinity of the destroyed port. More than 10,000 enterprises in the direct vicinity of the blast have been destroyed or put out of business, leaving more than 100,000 people unemployed and highly food insecure. Additionally, an estimated 300,000 people have lost their homes, the organization said. 

UNDP will work on reducing the immediate impact of the blast on food availability for the most vulnerable, through a mix of cash-for-work emergency employment schemes and the provision of family food security support.

“As we witness the people in Lebanon challenged again, it is now time to turn solidarity into action,” said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “While responding to the emergency, we will continue supporting the country as it reforms and rebuilds its longer-term priorities. Together we can ensure that Lebanon will come out of this crisis even stronger.”

The impact of the blast is also compounded by multi-faceted crises that Lebanon has faced for years, including spill over effects of the crisis in Syria and downwardly spiralling economic crisis, further complicated by a persistent COVID-19 outbreak.

The explosion has exacerbated vulnerabilities among several disadvantaged groups, including impoverished Lebanese, refugees and migrant workers. UNDP will support legal aid efforts in affected areas to provide counselling service, to help vulnerable groups safeguard their labor and housing rights.

“We have been here for five decades supporting the people of Lebanon in their efforts to recover from recurring crises,” said Country Resident Representative, Celine Moyroud.  “With the current set of crises that the country is going through, we are fully committed to supporting Lebanon on an inclusive path to recovery and development that leaves no one behind and that is attentive to people’s calls for change, greater accountability and transparency.”