UN agency suspends most Syria operations

UNRWA provides help, protection and advocacy for some 475,000 refugees.

Jerusalem: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Wednesday said it had suspended operations for 50,000 people in central and southern Syria in the face of the persistent violence sweeping the country.

A UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman said the organisation had stopped providing services in a refugee camp in the central city of Homs, a hub of anti-regime protests, and had also closed down its operations in and around the southern city of Daraa.

"The unrest in Syria has led to the closure of all UNRWA services in Daraa`s camp and surrounded areas, as well as Homs camp," spokesman Chris Gunness said, saying the move had affected 27,000 refugees in the Daraa region and another 22,000 in Homs.

The operations affected include 17 UNRWA schools, three health centres, two community centres, a youth centre and a women`s centre, he said.

"This is affecting up to 50,000 registered refugees and puts at risk some of the most vulnerable who rely on UNRWA services," he said.

"There are essentially two problems -- one is getting supplies from Damascus to these areas, and the second problem is that, even if we were able to get the supplies there, many people are not able to access these services because of the security situation," he said.

The spiralling unrest had also seen the "virtual closure of one of the largest UNRWA projects in Syria," he said, referring to the Engaging Youth project which aims to help young refugees get trained up and find employment.

UNRWA -- the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees -- provides help, protection and advocacy for some 475,000 refugees who are currently located in camps across Syria.

For almost two months, near-daily protests have railed against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has responded with an iron fist in a bid to stamp out the uprising.

Since the start of the protests in mid-March, between 600 and 700 people have been killed and at least 8,000 arrested, human rights groups say.

Bureau Report

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