Syrians facing starvation as aid fails to get through

(AP)Syrian refugees stand near their tent at Zaatari camp near the Syrian border, near Mafraq, Jordan

The Vatican's envoy to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, reports that the ongoing conflict has left many people facing starvation.

Speaking to Vatican Radio on Easter Monday, Archbishop Zenari described how in the Yarmouk district of the Syrian capital Damascus, where the Vatican's embassy or Nunciature is located, many of the 18,000 residents are either starving or showing signs of severe malnutrition.

"Aid is ready: [it is] there at the gates of these villages and neighbourhoods, and because of a lack of security, humanitarian agencies are unable to enter," Archbishop Zenari explained.

"This is something we cannot accept. This is something the international community cannot accept."

The Yarmouk district is home to a Palestinian refugee camp which is dangerously close to running out of food. Reports have emerged of camp residents eating leaves and animal feed out of desperation.

In order to keep the camp's population fed, the UN Relief and Works Agency says it needs to deliver at least 700 food parcels per day. Since April 9, however, no UN food supplies have been delivered.

Speaking at the weekend, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said: "Given that an UNRWA food parcel lasts for a maximum of 10 days, from [Easter Sunday] there will be no UN food in the camp.

"UNRWA demands that all parties cease hostilities and seek to resolve their differences exclusively by peaceful means. UNRWA also demands that continuous, substantial and safe humanitarian access is ensured."

Abu Issa, a 60-year-old resident of the camp, told the Observer: "The Syrian army do not allow anything to get in unless the rebels leave the camp and the rebels refuse to leave and we are stuck between."

The Pope once again spoke of the need for peace in the region, using his Easter Sunday Urbi et Orbi address to pray "that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenceless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue".