Syria humanitarian response (Issue 19)

27 November 2012

26 November 2012
Damascus, Syria

Palestine refugees and Syrians alike continue to face grave humanitarian challenges due to the armed conflict in Syria. An escalation this week has further compounded humanitarian needs and displacement, particularly in the areas of Aleppo and Damascus/Rif Damascus.

Based on field assessments in Syria, UNRWA estimates that the refugee population in need has surpassed the planning figure on which UNRWA‘s Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan was based (225,000), and now stands at over 300,000 Palestine refugees in Syria; three quarters of the population.

Currently, a total of 1,900 registered Palestine refugees have fled Syria for Jordan. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria who have approached UNRWA in Lebanon for assistance is estimated to be 9,666(2,248 households).

UNRWA has received requests for emergency cash assistance from over 59,000 households in Syria, with projections that the current rate of requests may well approach 100,000 by the end of the year. UNRWA anticipates that its available resources for cash assistance will be exhausted by January 2013.

There are growing concerns over the immediate winter needs of vulnerable Palestine refugees in Syria, and those who have fled to Jordan and Lebanon. Blankets, quilts, heating fuel, and warm clothes are desperately needed to help protect vulnerable groups from winter-related illness and exposure to the cold. Palestine refugees whose homes have been damaged are particularly vulnerable, as they lack adequate shelter during the winter months.

Syria

At a glance:

  • At least 12 Palestine refugees have died in Damascus/Rif Damascus due to conflict-related incidents;
  • The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria has led an assessment mission to Deraa.

Exposure to violence, displacement, and limited livelihood opportunities in Syria continue to increase the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. UNRWA‘s main priorities in Syria are the delivery of food and cash assistance, household and winter items, and hygiene kits. UNRWA continues to deliver medical services through its network of 23 health centres, in spite of conflict-related disruptions.

Currently, there are 2,906 internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in six UNRWA school buildings, marking a 40-per-cent increase since last week. Approximately 76 per cent of the displaced population residing in UNRWA school buildings is made up of women and children.

Damascus

The humanitarian situation in Damascus/Rif Damascus remained grave this week as hostilities continued in all areas surrounding Yarmouk camp, including Tadamon, Yalda, Hajar al Aswad and Qadam. It is estimated from reports that at least 12 refugees have died in the Damascus/Rif Damascus area during the last week. Shelling was reported in Sbeineh in the south, which resulted in damages to an UNRWA school. Access to Ramadan camp was temporarily blocked due to hostilities in the adjacent area of Douma. UNRWA‘s microfinance office in Douma, temporarily closed for several weeks due to insecurity, was damaged by a nearby explosion. There are reports that armed elements were seen in a temporarily-closed UNRWA school in Douma.

UNRWA is seeking to ascertain the facts to the greatest extent possible, with a view to considering how best to ensure the neutrality of its premises. The Agency is concerned that challenges in ensuring secure delivery of assistance will become greater as the conflict deepens. This concern is fuelled by incidents involving the loss of food parcels en route to Homs at a checkpoint in western Damascus.

UNRWA facilities were operational across Syria, with the exception of those in Yarmouk and Douma. Of particular concern is the inability of all three health centres in Yarmouk to remain open, on account of the intensifying conflict in the area. UNRWA attempted to find alternative premises to ensure the continuity of health services; however, the alternative location was recently damaged by shelling.

IDPs in two UNRWA school buildings in Damascus as of 22 November 2012

Area

Men

Women

Children

Total

Yarmouk

195

311

237

743

Khan Eshieh

175

290

175

640

Ramadan

103

108

221

432

Total

473

709

633

1,815

Aleppo

Clashes continue to threaten the safety of residents and the delivery of humanitarian aid into Aleppo. The areas of Leramon, Bustan al Qasr and the Old City appear to be the focus of increased hostilities. The security situation in the vicinity of Neirab and Ein el Tal camps (and the adjacent airport) remains volatile, and access to the camps is unpredictable. This week, there has been a significant increase (59 per cent) in the number of IDPs sheltered in UNRWA school buildings in Aleppo. Emergency cash distribution is expected to reach 1,210 vulnerable households in the coming weeks. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

IDPs in four UNRWA school buildings in Aleppo as of 7 November 2012

Area

Men

Women

Children

Total

Neirab

102

182

176

460

Ein el Tal

128

218

285

631

Total

230

400

461

1,091

Dera‘a: UNRWA Director‘s mission oversees life-saving humanitarian assistance

UNRWA continues against the odds to deliver health care and other humanitarian aid in Dera’a.

On 21 November, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria Michael Kingsley-Nyinah led a mission of the UNRWA Syria programme team to Deraa. The mission, made possible by a slight reduction in the intensity of the fighting in Deraa, was an opportunity to express appreciation to Agency staff in the area, and to encourage them to continue to demonstrate exemplary levels of courage and commitment in the service of Palestine refugees.

Led by Area Officer Jamal Zawawi, UNRWA‘s staff in Deraa have maintained the Agency‘s presence and services in an extraordinarily perilous environment characterised by incessant and intense armed conflict. The lowest recent point was the destruction of UNRWA‘s Deraa Area Office by a shell at a time when staff were at work, fortunately without casualties. In other incidents, a number of staff have sustained gunshot wounds and had their homes seriously damaged.

The missions other objectives included :

  • Consultations with programme staff on UNRWA‘s rapid assessment tool. The data obtained will form the basis for revising the Agency‘s humanitarian response plan for 2013;
  • Discussions with refugees and leaders of the refugee community on their experiences, concerns and recommendations for improving UNRWA‘s work. The Director underlined the vital obligation of staff and refugees at all times to maintain and demonstrate neutrality;
  • Consultations with the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR), UNRWA‘s government counterpart and with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), with whom UNRWA has recently partnered to ensure the delivery of food aid to 888 families living in special hardship
  • Reviewing the safety status of the new office premises in order to enhance security. The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria monitored the ongoing delivery of 6,600 food parcels to 30,000 beneficiaries.

Hama

With the exception of small arms fire heard to the north of the camp, the town and camp remain calm and the town is accessible. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

Latakia

Despite a heavy security presence throughout the area, the town and camp are calm. UNRWA facilities are operational.

Homs

There are reports of intermittent shelling in the city centre. This week, a demonstration took place in the camp in support of Palestine refugees in Gaza. The city centre and the main road to Hama remain inaccessible; however, the roads to Damascus and Latakia are open. There are disruptions in electricity in the camp, with only 2-3 hours of electricity daily. Currently, UNRWA is distributing food and cash assistance to approximately 3,500 vulnerable families.

Jordan

A total of 1,900 Palestine refugees from Syria have entered Jordan, representing an increase of 12 per cent over the course of this week. Of this number, 200 refugees are residing in Cyber City, with approximately 40 refugees in Zaatari camp. It is estimated that 76 per cent of Palestine refugees from Syria in Jordan is made up by women and children. The needs of Palestine refugees from Syria for emergency health care, food, and NFIs including winter items, are acute. This week, UNRWA distributed parcels of food, child hygiene kits and boxes of dates donated by the Saudi Committee to 400 Palestine refugee families from Syria currently residing in urban areas.

The Agency remains concerned about reported cases of the refoulement of refugees attempting to cross into Jordan, and continues to liaise with the relevant authorities.

Lebanon

Currently, there are an estimated 9,666 Palestine refugees from Syria in Lebanon. UNRWA has organised child-friendly spaces and the introduction of learning materials for Palestine refugee children from Syria as part of its programme of alternative education. There are 655 children participating in the alternative education activities, representing approximately 60 per cent of the 1,086 Palestine refugee students from Syria who had requested to attend local UNRWA schools.

In the coming weeks, UNRWA will receive emergency operational support through the deployment of a secondee from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. UNRWA continues to coordinate with UN agencies on its response to the winter needs of Palestine refugees who have fled Syria for Lebanon.

Current funding requirement

UNRWA is seeking USD 54 million through its revised Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and those who have fled across Syria‘s borders into neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan. The focus of UNRWA‘s response plan is Syria. The plans seeks USD 44 million for the six-month period from September 2012 to February 2013 to address pressing humanitarian needs, USD 8 million to support Palestine refugees who have fled to Lebanon, and USD 1.5 million for those currently seeking refuge in Jordan.

So far, and since the launch of the previous regional response plan earlier this year, USD 17.567 million has been received from the United States, Italy, Sweden (Sida), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) through its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Emergency Response Fund (ERF), the Bizkaia regional Spanish government, the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission (ECHO), Switzerland, and private donors. UNRWA is continuing negotiations with several donors for support to Palestine refugees affected by the crisis.

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$ 70.5 million.

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