Syria humanitarian response (Issue 20)

30 November 2012

30 November 2012
Damascus, Syria

Situational overview


UNRWA Protection staff with Palestine refugees from Syria in Cyber City, Jordan.

The humanitarian and security situation in Syria has significantly deteriorated this week resulting in a rising death toll, continuing displacement and greater humanitarian needs, particularly in the areas of Aleppo and Damascus/Rif Damascus. Access to areas affected by armed conflict remains a major challenge to delivering humanitarian aid.

A rapid needs assessment exercise is in progress in UNRWA’s areas of operation, although the constraints of the conflict situation mean that the assessment may not be as comprehensive as it might otherwise be. The results of the assessment will inform the revision of the Agency’s Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan. Early indications are that over 350,000 Palestine refugees require assistance. This contrasts with the estimate of 225,000 that was the basis of the current Response Plan.

Currently, there are 2,200 registered Palestine refugees who have fled Syria for Jordan. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria that have approached UNRWA in Lebanon is estimated to be approximately 10,000.

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

Due to the conflict, vulnerable Palestine refugees are unable to meet their basic food, medical, education and household needs. Their vulnerability is compounded by the winter season, as conflict-affected Palestine refugees in Syria and those who have fled to Jordan and Lebanon are in desperate need of blankets, quilts, heating fuel, and warm clothes to protect them from exposure to the cold. Palestine refugees whose homes have been damaged are particularly vulnerable as they lack adequate shelter during the winter months. There is also a need to rehabilitate UNRWA facilities that are being used as temporary shelter by displaced Palestine refugees, in particular UNRWA school facilities in Syria and Cyber City in Jordan.

Syria

Highlights:

  • Security situation continues to deteriorate in Damascus/Rif Damascus with the temporary closure of the road to the airport;
  • Rising number of reported cases of abduction and criminality throughout Syria;
  • At least 11 Palestine refugees were reported killed in the Damascus/Rif Damascus area.

Palestine refugees and Syrians alike are desperately seeking ways to build their resilience against a rapidly deteriorating situation, particularly in the areas in Damascus/Rif Damascus and Aleppo. Despite high risks of exposure to violence, UNRWA’s over 3,600 staff throughout Syria are prioritising the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance such as emergency food and cash, household and winter items, and medical services.

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 comprises predominantly women and children.

Damascus/Rif Damascus

The evolving humanitarian situation in Damascus/Rif Damascus has seen an escalation in hostilities around Yarmouk, where at least eight Palestine refugees were killed and three others injured this week. There has been continuous shelling in the camp’s neighbouring areas of Tadamon, Hajar al Aswad and Qadam. Communication networks including mobile phones and landlines were temporarily disrupted adding to the inaccessibility to the camp. The road to the airport was temporarily closed due to intense armed engagements in the area. There were also reports of small arms fire and the detonation of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in the area of Jaramana, resulting in an unconfirmed number of deaths and injuries. Three Palestine refugees were reportedly killed and two others injured by shelling in the area of Seyeda Zainab. Armed conflict has also restricted access and services available in Qaboun, Derayya and Jobar. Kidnapping and other crimes continue to be reported. Relatives of UNRWA staff were reportedly abducted in the areas of West Mezzeh and Yalda.

Despite grave risks of exposure to violence, UNRWA staff continue to distribute emergency cash assistance and other humanitarian aid. UNRWA is able to distribute cash assistance to approximately 1,300 Palestine refugees daily through bank transfers or direct distribution, depending on the security situation. The Agency aims to distribute cash assistance to an additional 28,300 vulnerable families in the coming weeks, with projections that a total of 51,051 families (since the start of the conflict) will have been assisted by the end of the year.

UNRWA facilities are operational with the exception of the majority of facilities in Yarmouk, Douma, Husseiniyah and Qaboun, and Jaramana that are closed due to insecurity.

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

UNRWA Syria Operations Centre: Helping staff deliver life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable

Armed conflict throughout Syria has severely restricted humanitarian access. Since the start of the conflict, five UNRWA staff members have lost their lives, all in the area of Damascus. Clashes, shelling and explosives continue to pose daunting challenges for UNRWA staff to deliver humanitarian aid. The UNRWA Syria Operations Centre works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to support staff by

  • Providing status updates on the security situation
  • Disseminating security alert messages to staff
  • Maintaining contact and with UNDSS and other security counterparts
  • Tracking UNRWA vehicle movements
  • Serving as an emergency contact for all staff.

Through humanitarian-response contributions, UNRWA staff have received training in critical survival and security-related skills to operate in an emergency, including hazardous-environment awareness training and emergency response training.

Despite the deteriorating situation, UNRWA’s frontline staff remain committed to serving the most vulnerable Palestine refugees.

Dera’a

Shelling and explosions continue to affect the village of Mzerieb, reportedly killing one Palestine refugee this week. At mid-week, an UNRWA vehicle was carjacked at gunpoint. There are reports that more Palestine refugees are returning to the camp from neighbouring villages. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

Aleppo

Clashes continue to result in an unconfirmed number of deaths and serious injuries to civilians in the area of Aleppo, particularly in the neighbourhoods of Leramon, Bustan al Qasr and the Old City. 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. 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

Homs

There are reports of intense shelling in the areas of Bab Amr, Jobar and Sultaniyeh. The city centre and the main road to Hama remain inaccessible, although side roads are being used to conduct humanitarian missions between Homs and Hama. The roads to Damascus and Latakia are open. There are disruptions in electricity in the camp with only two to three hours of electricity daily. Currently, UNRWA is distributing food and cash assistance to approximately 3,500 vulnerable families. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

Hama

With the exception of small arms fire in the vicinity 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.

Jordan

There are approximately 2,200 Palestine refugees who have fled Syria into Jordan, representing a large increase of 300 refugees (15 per cent) over the course of this week. Of this total number, there are approximately 200 refugees residing in Cyber City, 40 refugees in Za’atari camp, 27 refugees at King Abdullah Park, and new seven refugees in Mafraq. It is estimated that 76 per cent of Palestine refugees from Syria in Jordan is made up of women and children.

The needs of Palestine refugees from Syria remain acute in the fields of emergency health care, food, and non-food items (NFIs) including materials for winter. Currently, there are 304 Palestine refugee students from Syria who are continuing their education in UNRWA schools in Jordan. In addition, there are a total of 30 Palestine refugee students from Cyber City and Za’atari camp who attend government schools. UNRWA is prioritising the needs of the growing number of children that are highly vulnerable to disruption to their education.

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

Lebanon

Currently, there are approximately 10,000 Palestine refugees from Syria who have entered Lebanon. UNRWA is prioritising the winter needs of Palestine refugees from Syria who are in urgent need of heating fuel, warm clothes and blankets to protect them from exposure to the cold during the winter. UNRWA continues to coordinate with UN agencies on its response to the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees who have fled Syria for Lebanon.

Funding needs

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 17.941 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, Ireland 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$ 56 million.

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