Syria humanitarian response

14 August 2012

10 August 2012
Damascus, Syria

Syria

The humanitarian situation in Syria has continued to deteriorate over the past week. Armed conflict continues in Rif Damascus, Homs, and Dera’a, and has intensified in Aleppo, with a rise in the number of people leaving their homes or crossing international borders to seek safety. It is estimated that some 225,000 Palestine refugees in Syria are now directly affected by the conflict. UNRWA is revising its humanitarian response plans to reflect current realities and increased needs.

Food and cash assistance remain critical priorities in the Agency’s humanitarian response. Since the last week of July, some Syrians and Palestine refugees who left their homes to seek safety have been accommodated in the Agency’s schools and assisted by UNRWA working closely with other UN agencies and local charities. Currently, (see table below) there are 8,404 displaced persons sheltering in 17 UNRWA schools, of whom 31 per cent are women and 44 per cent are children. For those displaced, there is an urgent need for non-food items, in particular mattresses, blankets, and cooking sets. In the schools accommodating the displaced and in conflict-affected areas, UNRWA has cause to be concerned about the growing challenges of maintaining environmental health standards and preventing the outbreak of infectious diseases.

  1. Damascus: Armed conflict continues to have an impact on Yarmouk, which is home to 79 per cent of Syria’s Palestine refugee population (June 2011 data). 4,163 individuals are seeking refuge in ten UNRWA schools within Yarmouk Camp, an increase of 1,012 individuals since 3 August (data correct on 7 August 2012):

Damascus: Displaced Syrians and Palestine refugees accommodated in UNRWA schools 

Area
Male
Female
Children
Total
Yarmouk
1,029
1,247
1,887
4,163
Khan Eshieh
345
389
527
1,261
Jaramana
186
212
427
825
Khan Danoun
69
92
233
394
Ramadan
588
642
531
1,761
Alliance
15
18
54
87
Total
2,232
2,600
3,659
8,404

An explosion in Yarmouk on 2 August resulted in the deaths of 20 persons, 14 of whom where Palestine refugees. Access to Yarmouk is possible during lulls in the conflict.

Zamalka, Rokn Eddin, Sbeineh and other districts in Rif Damascus continue to sporadically experience the use of heavy weapons and clashes, posing serious risks to civilian residents, including UNRWA staff. Sbeineh’s health centre was closed yesterday due to access problems. The armed conflict continues to limit safe movement and humanitarian access across Syria.

On 7 August, the hijacking of an UNRWA vehicle by armed men in civilian clothes illustrated the risks to Yarmouk and Sbeineh health centres, which are currently closed.

  1. Aleppo: The armed conflict escalated dramatically in the eastern half of the city, with reports of intense clashes in some residential areas, involving the use of aircraft and heavy weapons. Mobile phone and internet communications are frequently interrupted. Fighting has occurred around UNRWA’s area office, which is open only when it is safe for staff to reach it. Safe movement is seldom possible between the area office and Neirab and Ein al Tal camps. The camps remain calm, with no armed violence reported.

Aleppo: Displaced Syrians and Palestine refugees accommodated in UNRWA schools
 

Area
Male
Female
Children
Total
Neirab
17
17
50
84
Ein el Tal
60
100
120
280
Total
77
117
170
364
  1. Dera’a: All operations in the southern area remain suspended. Due to the armed conflict, there is little safe access to countryside villages. Palestine refugee homes in the camp have been severely damaged. Following a pause in the fighting since 8 August, some sanitation workers have been able to work within the camp on a limited basis, and reports suggest that a perhaps up to half of the camp population (approximately 6,000 individuals) may be in the process of returning to the camp. If the pause persists, the camp’s health centre will also be open. Despite occasional shelling, Agency services in Muzerieb are also currently operational. The situation in Jillen is currently calm.
     
  2. Latakia: Daily evening demonstrations have continued for several days, and warning shots from government troops have been used to disperse the crowds. No injuries have been reported and the military presence has discouraged further demonstrations. The camp and city are now calm, and all facilities are operational.
     
  3. Hama: The camp and city have been reported as calm, although some small arms fire has been audible to camp residents. Despite movement restrictions in various parts of the town, facilities have been open and operations are continuing.
     
  4. Homs: There have been some heavy clashes and shelling in neighbouring Bab Amr, but no armed engagements have occurred in the camp. Electricity cuts are ongoing, and are causing mounting problems for facilities and households alike. All UNRWA facilities are currently operating, albeit with reduced staff. The road to Hama is reportedly blocked, but access remains possible to Damascus and Latakia.

Jordan

  1. As of 8 August, there are 906 persons of concern to UNRWA that have crossed from Syria into Jordan, representing a five per cent increase from last week. Within Cyber City, there are 178 Palestinians (including registered refugees and family members). The Agency is currently liaising with Jordanian authorities to ensure their humanitarian needs are met.
     
  2. The Za’atari Camp in Mafraq was opened on 29 July to shelter refugees from Syria. The camp has an initial capacity of 5000, housed in 51 tents, with four blocks currently being prepared to hold a total of 25,000 individuals. The planned total capacity for the camp is estimated at 113,000. The Bashabshe Transit Facility has now been closed.

Lebanon

  1. The Lebanon field office continues to co-ordinate with partners regarding assistance to displaced Palestine refugee families from Syria. Assistance is reaching displaced families in certain areas, including food distribution in Beqaa. The record of displaced Palestinian families from Syria is steadily rising as more of them approach UNRWA staff and installations. On 9 August, UNRWA had recorded approximately 3,000 Syria-based Palestine refugees who had approached UNRWA in Lebanon. Of areas within Lebanon, the highest number of families is recorded in Saida area, followed by Central Lebanon (Beirut) and Beqaa.

Current funding requirement

The revised UNRWA Consolidated Regional Plan will be shared with donors in August.

USD 3.82 million has been received to date against UNRWA‘s current Consolidated Regional Plan of USD 27.4 million. UNRWA is continuing negotiations with several donors for support to Palestine refugees affected by the crisis. This week UNRWA signed an agreement with Sweden (SIDA) in support of Palestine refugees in Syria and with the ERF in support of Palestine refugees in Jordan.

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68.2 million.

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