In Syria, in addition to the social safety net assistance that we provide for poor Palestine refugees across the five fields, the Department of Relief and Social Services (RSS) administers the emergency food, cash and non-food items (NFI) distributions to Palestine refugee families who have been displaced or impoverished by the ongoing conflict.
We also support other activities related to the Agency’s emergency response, with social workers now routinely visiting refugees residing in the collective shelters housed in UNRWA facilities. As of March 2014, 17 UNRWA facilities in Syria were providing shelter to nearly 8,000 people – including around 6,700 Palestine refugees – while a further 4,000 Palestine refugees had found shelter in 17 non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia. Palestine refugee camps such as Hama, Homs and Latakia are also hosting thousands of Palestine refugees displaced from their homes in places like Yarmouk, Ein El Tal and other areas.
The community-based organizations (CBOs) run by Palestine refugees in Syria have played an important role in the Agency’s emergency response. They are strategically located within the Palestine refugee camps, some of which UNRWA is now unable to access, and provide an important connection for UNRWA to the community. CBOs shelter displaced persons or identify suitable accommodation, and assist in the provision of humanitarian support, for example by informing refugees as to when food and cash distributions are to take place. In some cases, CBOs forced to close their own installations have re-established themselves within collective shelters for displaced persons, and help provide shelter and essential humanitarian and social services to displaced Palestine refugees and other vulnerable persons.
As of March 2014, over half of the Palestine refugee community in Syria is displaced – 270,000 within the country itself, and some 80,000 outside its borders. In such challenging and volatile circumstances, we seek to ensure that Palestine refugee records are updated with current address information and family composition. Recently, we developed an emergency module within the Refugee Registration Information System to record the details of those requesting emergency assistance, either in Syria or in the other UNRWA fields were they have sought refuge from the conflict.