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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
23 January 2014

UN-led Campaign Supported by Millions Globally Tells the Parties to the Syria Conflict: End Restrictions on Civilians Now
23 January 2014
East Jerusalem

حملة بقيادة الأمم المتحدة وبدعم الملايين في أنحاء العالم لإخبار أطراف النزاع السوري بأن يعملوا على "إنهاء القيود على المدنيين الآن

An unprecedented three-day social media campaign generating more than 31.6 million ‘impressions’ and reaching tens of millions around the world has demanded that the parties to the Syria conflict allow aid to flow to Yarmouk, the besieged Damascus neighbourhood and a key area hosting Palestine refugees in Syria. The campaign, which was backed by celebrities like Mia Farrow, Hugh Grant and Arab Idol Mohammed Assaf, brought together UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, OCHA and UNRWA as well as NGOs, among them Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee and grassroots organizations with deep reach into their communities.

“Millions of people heard our plea, that we have seen enough reports of starving children, infants with rickets and women dying in childbirth for lack of medical care. We urge the parties to listen to the voice of the international humanitarian community,” said UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness. “A small amount of food aid has been allowed into Yarmouk in the last few days, but this is a drop in the ocean. We demand that Yarmouk and other civilian areas throughout Syria are open to safe, regular and substantial humanitarian access; that the civilian residents of Yarmouk like all civilians be granted free and safe movement; and that all sides to the Syria conflict comply with their international obligations to protect Syrian and Palestinian civilians in Yarmouk and beyond.”

Over a thousand people and organizations signed up for a Thunderclap, which simultaneously sent out a tweet to over 11.5 million Twitter accounts generating further social media ‘impressions’. The campaign was led by UNRWA, which for decades has been the agency responsible for education, health, relief and social services in Yarmouk, which was home to some 160,000 Palestinian refugees. After nearly three years of fighting, the Palestinian population of Yarmouk has been reduced to about 18,000 people, including women and children, to whom UNRWA, along with UN and other agencies, is striving to bring emergency aid.

Further details of the campaign, one of the most successful in history of Thunderclap, can be found at:

– Ends –

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 65 million.

For more information, please contact:
Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
      Sami Mshasha
      UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
      +972 (0)54 216 8295
      +972 (0)2 589 0724

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