UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Tuesday that there is a typhoid outbreak among civilians from a besieged Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, with at least six confirmed cases.
Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the agency known as UNRWA, said its staff gained access to Yalda, an area east of the Yarmouk camp hosting displaced Palestinian refugees and Syrian civilians, for the first time since June 8 and established a mobile health point.
UNRWA said in a situation report that its medical personnel provided 211 consultations over the course of Tuesday in Yalda, including confirming six cases of typhoid.
But the refugee agency also noted "credible reports" of a typhoid outbreak in the region with other cases in Yarmouk, Yalda and two other areas, Babila and Beit Sahem.
UNRWA said it was authorized to provide limited health assistance as well as water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to the community.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, typhoid is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi which is spread by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. It can usually be treated with antibiotics, but can be fatal in some cases without treatment.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said in June that before the Syrian war began in 2011 there were 160,000 Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp, many of whom held jobs. Before the Islamic State extremist group entered the camp in early April there were 18,000 refugees, but he said several thousand have fled since then and the U.N. has not had access.
"UNRWA's priority remains the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians within Yarmouk itself," Gunness said. "Never has the imperative for sustained humanitarian access been greater."