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March 4, 2014

U.N. struggles to aid those trapped by Syria’s civil war


The State Department released its annual human rights report last week and concluded that last summer’s chemical weapons attack in Syria, which killed more than 1,400 people, was the worst human rights violation of 2013.

For those still left in Syria, the struggle to survive continues. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived in Syria since the 1950s, however now they are caught in the crossfire of civil war in a country that is not their own.

The Yarmouk camp, established in the center of Damascus in 1957, was once home to 160,000 Palestinians. Now, only 18,000 are left. Since the camp came under siege by the Syrian army in July, aid workers have had a hard time accessing the area. The U.N. says more than 100 residents have died of starvation and related illnesses in that time.

As the fighting rages on, an ever-growing number of Syrians have been forced to leave their homes. Nearly seven million are displaced within their own country, while another 2.5 million have sought refuge in surrounding states.

Peace negotiations between the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups have yet to make much progress.

For now, U.N. staffers continue to work through negotiations with the Syrian government, rebel and Palestinian factions within the Yarmouk camp, with the aim of delivering more aid while it can still do some good.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Syria located?
  2. Where is Palestine?
  3. Both Syria and Palestine are currently in conflicts that have created millions of refugees. What are some of the challenges that face refugees when they are displaced from their homes?
Discussion questions
  1. Why is it so difficult to get the needed supplies and medical care to Palestinian refugees in Syria?
  2. What can be done to help the Syrian and Palestinian people?
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