UNITED NATIONS - As world leaders met in Montreux, Switzerland, seeking a political solution to the crisis in Syria, the United Nations is calling on all parties in the strife-torn nation to facilitate the urgent provision of humanitarian aid to Palestinians trapped in the Yarmouk refugee camp.

Yarmouk’s 18,000 residents have been besieged for months as the conflict in Syria continues unabated. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been calling for full humanitarian access to the area, which is difficult to enter due to ongoing fighting, making the process of delivering aid “painfully slow.”

“The humanitarian community has continued to attempt to take desperately needed food to thousands of people trapped in Yarmouk, amid reports of children with malnutrition and women dying during childbirth because of a lack of medical services,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said.

 “UNRWA made another attempt to deliver food Tuesday, but after waiting all day was permitted to deliver only 26 food parcels, which means to date, we have delivered just a few hundred food parcels,” he stated.

This is a “drop in the ocean” considering the level of need among Yarmouk’s 18,000 people who have been besieged for months, the spokesman added. UNRWA is mandated by the UN General Assembly to provide assistance and protection to Palestine refugees. This includes extending relief to civilians in distress in Palestinian refugee camps across Syria.

Gunness said that UNRWA has managed overall to deliver just a few hundred food parcels. The agency is working with the Syrian authorities, who are facilitating the distribution, to do more to speed up the process so that more substantial quantities of relief can reach the thousands of civilians in Yarmouk to help ease their suffering. Prior to the armed conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, Yarmouk - a suburb just south of Damascus - was home to over 160,000 Palestine refugees.  In December 2012 and in the months since, conflict has caused at least 140,000 Palestine refugees to flee their homes in Yarmouk, as armed opposition groups established a presence in the area, with Government forces controlling the periphery.