A picture showing thousands of refugees queueing for aid has emerged exposing the shocking conditions endured by 20,000 people trapped inside a devastated Palestinian camp in Syria.
Scenes from inside Yarmouk camp, which is situated south of the capital Damacus, were today described as "apocalyptic" by the UN’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) with images showing thousands of refugees surrounded by the shells of blackened buildings and mounds of rubble.
The UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Filippo Grandi, said he was left “shaken and deeply disturbed” by the conditions he witnessed when humanitarian aid distribution began again on Monday morning. UNRWA distribution of food parcels and medical supplies had been suspended following clashes in northern Yarmouk on 7 February.
“The Palestine refugees with whom I spoke were traumatised by what they have lived through, and many were in evident need of immediate support, particularly food and medical treatment”, Mr Grandi said.
In pictures: Syria's escalating refugee crisis
In pictures: Syria's escalating refugee crisis
1/20 Syria refugee crisis
A young Syrian refugee stands near jerry cans used to collect water at Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. The United Nations hopes that political talks between the warring sides in Syria will clinch local ceasefires to allow vital food and medicines to reach millions of civilians
2/20 Syria refugee crisis
Syrian refugees transport small stones for their tents at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria
3/20 Syria refugee crisis
Representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a deeply divided opposition, world powers and regional bodies started a long-delayed peace conference aimed at bringing an end to a nearly three-year civil war
4/20 Syria refugee crisis
A Syrian refugee family rests inside their shelter in Hatay, Turkey
5/20 Syria refugee crisis
A Syrian refugee family from Aleppo crosses the Bosphorus from Uskudar to the European side of Istanbul
6/20 Syria refugee crisis
Syria's air force struck rebel-held areas around Damascus and Aleppo as face-to-face peace talks tentatively began in Switzerland
7/20 Syria refugee crisis
Syrian refugees look out from an evacuated house in the Kucukpazar district of Istanbul. Syrians fill houses which have been evacuated for urban development projects. Destitute Syrian refugees who have fled the war in Syria and camps in Turkey are fighting for their lives in different parts of Istanbul
8/20 Syria refugee crisis
Refugees who moved into the houses in Kucukpazar neighbourhood near the historic Suleymaniye mosque, are struggling to live without water and heating
9/20 Syria refugee crisis
A Syrian woman and her child stand inside a building in the Kucukpazar district of Istanbul
10/20 Syria refugee crisis
A Syrian boy sits in debris in the Kucukpazar district of Istanbul
11/20 Syria refugee crisis
Damaged buildings line a street in the besieged area of Homs
12/20 Syria refugee crisis
People sit around a fire along a street lined with debris in the besieged area of Homs
13/20 Syria refugee crisis
Children cut wood pieces in the besieged area of Homs. Efforts to get food and medical aid into Homs have become a test case on whether peace talks in Switzerland can produce any practical results almost three years into the Syrian conflict
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Boys walk along a street past damaged buildings and vehicles in the besieged area of Homs
15/20 Syria refugee crisis
Syrians stand in a destroyed street following a reported airstrike by government forces on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
16/20 Syria refugee crisis
Rescue teams search for survivors on the rubble of a building following Syrian government air raids in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
17/20 Syria refugee crisis
A graveyard in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
18/20 Syria refugee crisis
A view of destruction in Aleppo's ancient Umayyad mosque, in the UNESCO-listed northern Syrian city. The mosque's minaret was blown up during clashes between opposition and government forces
19/20 Syria refugee crisis
Syrians attend the funeral of victims who reportedly died of hunger in the besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus
20/20 Syria refugee crisis
A man holds the corpse of one-year old baby Adbul Jalil Mohamed Hamis wrapped in shrouds, who reportedly died of hunger in the besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus during a funeral ceremony
An agreement between Syrian rebel groups and government forces working with Palestinian factions has allowed the UNRWA to distribute some supplies of food and medicine since January, but the UN has to fight daily to deliver aid, meaning deliveries are sporadic.
Mr Grandi's visit came just days after the UN Security Council passed a landmark resolution demanding an end to restrictions on humanitarian operations in Syria.
Yarmouk has been under siege for almost a year. Most of its 160,000 strong population fled following violent clashes in December 2012, but at least 20,000 have remained and are forced to subsist on a diet of animal food, water with salt and leaves.
Months of encirclement by the Syrian army has left Yarmouk cut off from supplies and medical aid, resulting in a cute and widespread deprivation, including severe malnutrition, while civilian residents are constantly exposed to the threat of death, injuries and trauma of the armed conflict.
An Independent report found women were being shot at by snipers as they try to gather plants to feed their children, and at least 50 people have died from hunger-related causes since October.
Christopher Gunness, a spokesperson for the UNRWA, said it is impossible not to be touched by the "apocalyptic scenes" emerging from inside Yarmouk. "The images are at once epic and personal," he said.
“Row upon row of gaunt faces, serried ranks of grimy, raged figures; the delicate, hunger-ravaged features of children waiting in line for an UNRWA food parcel; the face of a mother creased in grief for a deceased child; tears of joy as a father is reunited with a long-lost daughter; these are the vignettes of inhumanity that have become the regular fare of nightly news bulletins. They are UNRWA's daily reality."