Once-bustling Yarmouk now a ghost-town and its surviving hospital is no more

On 22 April the only remaining hospital in Yarmouk, south Damascus, was put out of service after being reportedly destroyed in an air raid. Palestine Hospital had struggled on since the Syrian uprising and conflict began in 2011, despite waves of attacks on Yarmouk’s civilian residents, medical workers and facilities. 

In 2011, half a million Palestinian refugees lived in Syria and Yarmouk camp was home to the country’s largest concentration of them.

As early as 2014, some 194 civilians were documented to have died in Yarmouk as a result of the siege by Syrian government and allied forces, with lack of access to adequate medical care being a leading cause of death. Most Yarmouk residents and Palestinians in Syria more widely have fled their homes.

Yarmouk has become a "ghost town", a former resident now living close by told Al Jazeera on Monday. "No clinics, no doctors, no supplies - it's pretty much empty," he said.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) estimates that over the past few days some 5,000 Palestinians from Yarmouk have been displaced to Yalda. The agency, which cited "reports" for the figure, has not been able to provide assistance to the camp since 2015.

Since 19 April, 5,000 of the estimated remaining 6,000 civilians left Yarmouk to nearby Yalda. Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesman said that many of the new arrivals to Yalda are “begging for medicine and are sleeping in the streets”. “The situation facing Palestine refugees in and around Yarmouk is unimaginable…In Yarmouk itself, thousands of homes have been destroyed and the last remaining hospital rendered inoperable.”

Muawiya Muhammad, a doctor from Yarmouk working now in Yalda, said that those left in Yarmouk were mostly older Palestinians, most of whom are ill and with no one to care for them. “Even without the siege, the medical situation is really in a bad state,” he said. “The major percentage of [these cases] are infectious diseases that could be prevented with proper hygiene – typhoid fever and hepatitis A have broken out in the camp on many occasions".

Salim Salamah, a former Yarmouk resident told IRIN news: “This is the very last chapter in a slow and painful destruction of the Palestinian existence in Syria. Yarmouk’s siege is about to come to an end – not through a situation where people are allowed access to food, medical care, and freedom of movement, but instead one where the camp itself is being totally erased.”

Read MAP’s report, If I Die Bury Me in Palestine, to find out more about the experience of Palestinian refugees from Syria.

Photo credit: UNRWA