Syria Crisis

Syria Crisis

A student voice project that gives young people a say in their education and future.
UNRWA Archives


UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis has inaugurated a rehabilitated school for Palestine refugee children in Qabr Essit camp in Sayeda Zeinab on the outskirts of Damascus.   The Alma-Yarmouk School has been closed since the conflict forced the majority of the camp’s 25,000 residents to seek refuge in safer areas.  Although it was severely damaged by the intense armed exchanges, the school is now a symbol of UNRWA efforts to restore services to Palestine refugees in Qabr Essit.

The newly-painted halls and singing children now provide refreshing contrast to another UNRWA school across the street, which still remains a destroyed shell, its children still displaced.

"This is an important example of Palestinian resilience.  Wherever possible, UNRWA will try to help Palestine refugees rebuild their lives,” Ms. Ellis said.

The Director-General of the General Authority of Palestine Arab Refugees in Syria, Ali Mustafa, noted the supportive role of the community and of the government, and echoed the hopeful and determined message of the Qabr Essit community.  "This is a proud people whose steadfastness will not falter.  We look forward to a time when conditions will enable us to rebuild Sbeineh, Husseiniyeh, Ein el-Tal and Yarmouk," Mr. Mustafa said.

Ms. Ellis also spoke to displaced refugees in the UNRWA Safad School collective shelter in Rukn Eddin in Damascus. Over 400 refugees, mostly displaced from Qaboun in 2012, live in crowded conditions, with only plastic sheets separating families.

The visit included meetings with high-level officials, including the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, the Minister of Social Affairs and the Minister of Education. Ms. Ellis stressed the need for expanded assistance to Yarmouk and other camps as well as the importance of restoring communities by allowing return once security conditions permit.

Many of the 3,700 UNRWA staff in Syria reiterated to Ms. Ellis their commitment to serving their communities, but at the same time revealed unprecedented levels of stress and hardship.

UNRWA operations in Syria are a lifeline for some 460,000 Palestine refugees, and sustained funding is required to ensure families and communities survive the conflict.

Click here to read a story about the rebuilding of Qabr Essit.

Students in during #myvoicemyschool activities.

1-15 November 2014 | Issue 82


This month saw the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, article 12 of which states that children have the right to a voice in matters that concern them. The UNRWA project #myvoicemyschool enabled conflict-affected Palestine refugee youth in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and their peers in the UK to discuss the meaning of education in their lives and futures. In the words of British school children taking part, “We found that people in Syria still have hope that things are going to get better, so we want to focus on the positive side of life too. We think this would help people in Syria be heard and make them feel supported.” The project has received international coverage, including on the BBC website and BBC radio (17:12 – 22:40). To read more about the project and the participating students, please click here. The project reflects UNRWA commitment to providing innovative, high quality and student-led education in emergency situations.

More than half a million Palestine refugees continue to be affected by the conflict in Syria. UNRWA aims to preserve the resilience of Palestine refugees by continuing to provide critical services and humanitarian assistance. For a more detailed overview of the latest news and UNRWA support for Palestine refugees from Syria, please visit the Syria Crisis page.  

Regional overview

Displacement. In Syria, approximately 560,000 Palestine refugees are registered with UNRWA. It is estimated that over 50 per cent of Palestine refugees are displaced within Syria, with a further 14 per cent displaced to neighbouring countries. Sixteen UNRWA installations across Syria house 6,164 internally displaced persons (IDPs), of whom 9 per cent are Syrians. A further 6,925 Palestinians are hosted in other installations managed by UNRWA.

In Lebanon, 44,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have been recorded with UNRWA; 14,734 Palestine refugees have requested assistance from UNRWA in Jordan and 860 have requested assistance in Gaza. UNRWA has received reports of around 4,000 Palestine refugees from Syria in Egypt, as well as considerable numbers in Europe and beyond.

Funding. The total pledged amount against the 2014 Response Plan stands at US$ 202.5 million, including US$ 33.6 million pledged in 2013 for implementation in 2014. This amount is equivalent to 49 per cent of the total budget of the 2014 Syria regional crisis response required for January-December 2014 (US$ 417 million). For a complete overview of funding, please visit the Agency's 2014 Syria regional crisis response page.

Inter-agency. The Syria Regional Crisis Response Plan and the 3RP will be launched on 18 December in Berlin, hosted by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Media. The media focused on the widening scope of the Syrian refugee crisis, UN Special Envoy de Mistura’s plan for localized conflict‘freezes’and the situation of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. The magnitude of the refugee crisis has moved beyond the ability of Syria’s neighbours to shoulder the burden alone. Refugee hardship is compounded by the lack of humanitarian access and constrained financial support for humanitarian organizations, including UNRWA.


Yarmouk. UNRWA was able to access Yarmouk for seven days between 1 and 15 November with the facilitation of relevant authorities. During this period, UNRWA staff distributed 900 jerry cans containing drinking water, 1,400 food parcels and 800 hygiene kits to 1,400 families. On the days when UNRWA had access to Yarmouk, medical staff were able to provide health services to 625 patients at the temporary health point in Yarmouk. UNRWA remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yarmouk. The Agency is liaising with authorities concerned and urging for the restoration of continuous UNRWA support to reach over 4,000 civilian families inside Yarmouk.

Education. The #myvoicemyschool project, mentioned in the highlights, enabled conversation between conflict-affected Palestine refugee youth in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and their peers in the UK. The students discussed education and their futures. Conversations via Skype were vibrant and exciting, as students discovered shared values and priorities. Ensuring that children and youth are not ignored and have the space to define their own lives is an incredibly powerful way to promote protection. Ayat, a 15-year-old girl in a collective shelter in Damascus, confidently said she plans to rebuild her country more beautiful than it ever was. “In silence I am powerless, but with my voice, I can do many things,” she says.  

Health. The conflict in Syria has left many Palestine refugees in need of physical rehabilitation and artificial limbs. In collaboration with local hospitals, UNRWA has been able to assist 25 individuals (eight women and 17 men) in the Damascus area with artificial limbs and rehabilitation. A third of those patients fitted with artificial limbs are under the age of 20. Rehabilitation and prosthetics are critical to improving their quality of life, and ability to find employment and partake in socially-meaningful activities. UNRWA hopes to assist at least 90 other Palestine refugees who are currently registered and awaiting referral.  

Relief and Social Services. UNRWA runs an ‘Adolescents Project’ funded by UNICEF in the Jaramana community centre and IDP shelter. The project consists of various activities, including ‘My Dream Home’, which helps children and youth with disabilities express their emotions through drawing and art. Other psychosocial activities include playing chess on large boards and handicraft activities such as making hay baskets and accessories from beads. A handicraft exhibition is currently being prepared by a women’s organization and community centre in Safed IDP shelter in Rukn Eddin.
Engineering. The rehabilitation of an UNRWA school and community centre in Qabr Essit camp is a “symbol of the steadfast resilience of Palestinians”, according to Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria Michael Kingsley-Nyinah. Mr. Kingsley-Nyinah visited the UNRWA installations in Qabr Essit camp on 5 November to meet with staff, refugees and government officials. He noted that UNRWA staff have made substantial progress in making essential assistance available to Palestine refugees in Syria, despite the huge demand for emergency support and severe funding shortfalls. Mr. Kingsley-Nyinah added that the rehabilitation of Qabr Essit Camp “demonstrates UNRWA’s unwavering commitment to seize every available opportunity to restore its services in Syria to the benefit of Palestine refugees, wherever circumstances permit. UNRWA will continue to appeal to the authorities to facilitate the return of Palestine refugees and the restoration of UNRWA services to other locations where calm has been restored, including Sbeineh and Husseiniyeh in Rif Damascus.” 
Vocational Training. The Damascus Training Center (DTC) has introduced e-learning courses for its students in response to the protracted crisis in Syria. The DTC offers 66 courses to students via an e-portal. Students who access courses online receive online support from teachers and a variety of educational materials, which will soon include educational videos. So far, 200 students have enrolled in courses via the e-portal. The provision of alternative education resources is significant in the context of Syria, where access to education is often hampered by the security situation. The provision of online courses provides students the opportunity to study from their homes, continuing to gain qualifications and additional skills, and improve their employability.

Syria security overview

Staff and the conflict. UNRWA has lost 14 staff members in conflict-related violence since the outbreak of the conflict. In addition, 26 UNRWA staff members are currently detained or have been reported missing. A further 26 UNRWA staff members have been injured during the course of the conflict. 



Access from outside



Jaramana (official camp)


The situation remains tense with sporadic clashes reported in wider Jaramana. UNRWA facilities are operational.

Khan Danoun (official camp)


Sporadic clashes take place in surrounding areas.

Khan Eshieh (official camp)

Not accessible

The situation inside the camp is reported to be calm, but hostilities in the surrounding areas have made the camp inaccessible.

Qabr Essit (official camp)


The camp has remained calm and some UNRWA facilities are operational.

Sbeineh (official camp)

Not accessible

The vast majority of Palestine refugees have left the camp. None have so far been permitted to return, and all facilities remain closed.

Yarmouk (unofficial camp)

Not accessible

Yarmouk experiences regular clashes and shelling, which have disrupted distribution. Access remains heavily limited.

Central area



Hama (official camp)


The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.

Homs (official camp)


The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational despite sporadic clashes in surrounding areas.

Lattakia (unofficial camp)


The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.

North area


Ein el Tal (unofficial camp)

Not accessible

Residents were forcibly displaced by armed groups in April 2013 and have not been allowed to return. Access to the camp remains blocked.

Neirab (official camp)


The camp has remained relatively calm and all facilities are operational.

South area

Dera'a (official camp)

Not accessible

Sporadic incidents remain and the immediate vicinity continues to experience armed clashes.


Winterization. UNRWA is working to mobilize resources and coordinate with partners to address the needs of Palestine refugees from Syria during the coldest winter months. This winter, UNRWA will provide cash for fuel to the Palestine refugee from Syria population in Lebanon through the existing UNRWA ATM distribution system. All Palestine refugees from Syria in the Beqaa, and those living at altitudes over 500 meters countrywide, will be assisted by ICRC through UNRWA ATM cards. This will include fuel for five months at US$ 100 per month and a one-off US$ 50 for replacement of winterization goods, amounting to a total package of US$ 550 per family. UNICEF is also providing US$ 30 per child for clothing through UNRWA ATM cards and fuel for schools. UNRWA is struggling to meet the cold-weather needs of the remainder of the Palestine refugees from Syria in Lebanon and is urgently seeking the help of donors to ensure adequate assistance to all beneficiaries during this winter period. UNRWA needs US$ 1.8 million to support 8,650 Palestine refugees from Syria families across Lebanon who remain at risk this winter.

Protection, legal status and advice. The restrictions imposed by the Lebanese government in early May 2014 continue to result in the denial of entry to the majority of Palestine refugees fleeing Syria for safety in Lebanon, including many seeking unification with close family members already in Lebanon. Even Palestinians transiting through Lebanon to a third country or entering for embassy appointments in Beirut face obstacles and long delays at the border.

The Lebanese authorities announced on 25 September that Palestinians with expired visas could renew their visas free of charge for one time only. UNRWA is closely monitoring the implementation of the policy, including the time required for Palestine refugees from Syria to obtain the three-month visa and the implications on their ability to complete civil registration procedures, including birth registrations. Furthermore, UNRWA is actively engaging the authorities to clarify future implications on the status of Palestine refugees from Syria after visa extensions expire.

Humanitarian assistance. Since February 2014, cash assistance for Palestine refugees from Syria has been distributed on a monthly basis. In October, 41,000 beneficiaries were credited (totaling US$ 1.22 million for food and US$ 1.12 million for housing). Since an UNRWA-WFP needs assessment of July 2014, vulnerability-based assistance has covered 97% of Palestine refugees from Syria, who remain eligible  for a monthly US$ 30 per person for food and US$ 100 per family for housing, pending availability of funds. All Palestine refugees from Syria continue to have access to the core UNRWA programmes. Following an assessment by the UNRWA protection team, unaccompanied and separated minors (fewer than 150 as of August 2014) have received assistance in cash, rather than via an ATM card. 

Environmental health. UNRWA continued to strengthen camp infrastructure to cope with the increasing demand on camp utilities. This included rehabilitation of the sewerage network in Burj Barajneh camp in addition to rehabilitation of water supply systems, as in Ein El Hilweh, Rashidieh and Beddawi camps. UNRWA faced technical difficulties with some of its compactor trucks, and as a result, additional interventions were carried out to enable disposal of refuse from the camps of Nahr el-Bared and Beddawi. Environmental health promotion activities were carried out in all camps, including distribution of hygiene kits.

Health. Thanks to generous contributions from donors, UNRWA is covering the cost of primary health care services for Palestine refugees from Syria, including medical consultations and free medication through the 27 UNRWA health centres located throughout the country. The health programme is also covering the costs of secondary, and contributing towards, tertiary hospitalization for emergency and life-threatening conditions. Additionally, UNRWA provides financial support for Emergency Room Services at Palestine Red Crescent Society hospitals and partially covers these services at UNRWA-contracted hospitals. Since April 2013, UNRWA has also supported Palestine refugee from Syria patients suffering from critical health conditions, providing financial support to patients with costly medical procedures.

Education. Around 6,600 Palestine refugee from Syria students are enrolled in 60 UNRWA schools for the 2014-2015 school year in Lebanon. UNRWA has merged classes in six of 14 schools where many Palestine refugee from Syria students had been attending special afternoon classes, to join them with their Lebanese classmates in regular morning classes. UNRWA has recruited additional Palestine refugee from Syria teachers to continue to support the increased number of students and provide supplementary services for these students.


In Jordan, 14,734 Palestine refugees from Syria and their families have approached UNRWA for support, an increase of 44 since the last reporting period. Most Palestine refugees from Syria in Jordan live in poverty and their precarious legal status creates difficulties for civil processes, access to services and employment. Along with approximately 200 Syrians, 183 Palestine refugees from Syria are held in Cyber City, a government facility near Ramtha. The Agency has assessed 106 cases in 2014 as refoulement, a 43 per cent increase on 2013.  It is expected the actual number is higher, as many deportations are unreported.

Education. Class formation for the 2014-15 school year has been completed. While in previous years, admission to UNRWA schools in official and unofficial UNRWA camps had been open to Syrian children, for this school year, critical funding shortfalls have made the Agency limit new enrolments to Palestine refugee from Syria children only. Approximately 800 Syrian children who are not currently enrolled in UNRWA schools require access to education; UNRWA is working with its partners, including the government, other UN Agencies and donors to see how it can assist them. UNRWA has received a contribution of 2,982 school bags from UNICEF, of which approximately 2,500 had been distributed as of mid-November.

Health. UNRWA continues to provide Palestine refugees from Syria with free primary health care in its 23 health clinics, one health point, and four mobile dental clinics, as well as providing hospital referrals for emergency and life-saving care with almost full coverage. Palestine refugees from Syria received approximately 642 consultations at UNRWA health clinics. Overall, 98 per cent report they receive medical care when they need it.

Emergency relief. US$ 2.5 million cash assistance for essential needs (food and NFIs) has been distributed to vulnerable Palestine refugees from Syria. An additional US$ 80,000 has been distributed as one-off emergency cash-grants to assist approximately 230 families that had experienced a major shock.

INTEL helps UNRWA expand innovative self-learning programme for children affected by regional conflicts

Amman, Jordan

A new partnership agreement between Intel and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will improve access to the Agency’s innovative learning materials for thousands of Palestine refugee students and teachers. With the Intel Foundation support of US$ 100,000, UNRWA will create an online portal as a central gateway for continuous education for children in times of emergency.

More than 22,000 UNRWA education staff provides basic education to almost 500,000 Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The online portal will be accessible by all these students and teachers and in particular over 67,000 students who were affected by the conflict in Syria and studied in UNRWA schools before the conflict.

UNRWA is committed to supporting Palestine refugees living in conflict through its Education in Emergencies programme, which increasingly draws on innovative teaching technologies and ICT. UNRWA has developed a comprehensive self-learning programme, which has been now adopted for all Syrian children, with lessons broadcasted on the Agency’s satellite and YouTube channel UNRWA TV, and a web-based Interactive Learning Programme (ILP) addressing the learning needs of students. Recent efforts have seen UNRWA working closely with Digital Explorer and Skype in the Classroom to pilot #myvoicemyschool, which has connected classrooms in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan with classrooms in the United Kingdom.

Intel Director of Corporate Affairs, Middle East, Turkey and Africa Ferruh Gurtas said, “We are happy to collaborate with UNRWA on the online education portal as part of our Intel Innovation Initiative for the Middle East. Education is one of the key pillars of this initiative. With this grant, we wanted to utilize UNRWA expertise and combine that with technology in order to provide education to children who have challenges accessing it. The Intel Foundation fosters education opportunities and quality of life improvements for communities worldwide. By developing programmes, exercising leadership, and providing funding for grants, the Intel Foundation fuels innovation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); empowers girls and women; inspires underserved youth; and engages with our communities.”

UNRWA Director of Education Dr. Caroline Pontefract and Head of Partnerships, Communication and ICT Dr. Ayman Murad said the partnership will help make learning resources accessible for students affected by the crisis, and UNRWA students at large. Dr. Pontefract said UNRWA welcomes and will continue to work with partners such as Intel to mobilize the resources needed to provide quality education for Palestine refugees. 

Students at Haifa/al-Majdal School in Damascus speak to British students over Skype as part of #myvoicemyschool. November 2014 © UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammad

This autumn, Palestine refugee students in Damascus, Beirut and Irbid linked up with students in the United Kingdom in the UNRWA school partnership project #myvoicemyschool.  As the students got to know each other, they quickly developed friendships that transcended conflict and cultural differences. Craig, a student at Eastbury Comprehensive School in Essex said, “I was surprised at how we interacted so quickly when we had never met before.”

Working from a joint lesson plan over Skype, students in the paired classrooms explored education topics and shared ideas about how to improve their school environments. “We exchanged ideas that helped us create new ideas to change society for the better. I think this increased the sense of cooperation and helped us realize how important we are to each other,” said Maha, a student  at the UNRWA Haifa/al-Majdal School in Damascus.

Maha and her class relished the opportunity to interact with their British counterparts during the Skype sessions. They discussed teenage topics such as homework, pop music and sport, and described how their education has been impacted by the conflict in Syria.

For many, it was the first time to use live video technology as a learning tool in the classroom. The experience opened a window to the wider world, helping them develop their voices as they debated new ideas. #myvoicemyschool was designed by Digital Explorer and funded by UK aid, the European Union and UNICEF.

UNRWA-UNESCO Director of Education Caroline Pontefract said, “My Voice My School gives our students an opportunity to think about what education should be to best support their needs as young Palestinians in the 21st century and within the challenging contexts they often live in.  The project reflects the principles of the UNRWA education reform, which prioritises the development of critical thinking and key communication skills.”

The ideas, which came from the students’ conversations, planted the seeds for their final classroom projects. In their final report, Maha and her class in Damascus recommended that their school develop anti-bullying and conflict resolution strategies and improve the physical environment by painting walls and planting trees. Invigorated by the interactions over Skype, they also wanted to improve the technology available to them. “We believe if we had such a strategy, schools would be safe and stimulating places where all students feel that they are equal and can work together in a more attractive environment,” they said.

In taking part in #myvoicemyschool, the students affirmed their belief in their abilities and rejected marginalisation, saying: “This project has consolidated our trust in ourselves. We have felt that we are older and we can discuss big issues.”


UK aid leads the United Kingdom’s work to end extreme poverty. Based in London, UK aid works directly in 28 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East in areas including education, health, economic growth, the environment and water.  Since 2013, UK aid contributed £9.5million ($15.7million) to the Syria Emergency Appeal, which has funded, among other activities, the UNRWA Regional Crisis Communications unit. Thanks to UK aid’s generous donation, UNRWA was able to launch the #myvoicemyschool youth advisory project in line with UNRWA education reform priorities. For more information, see:

The inspiring voices of the students can be heard on BBC World Service coverage of the project. The views expressed in the report are independent from UNRWA and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Agency.


Palestine refugees from Syria have been severely affected by the ongoing armed conflict, with virtually all of their residential areas experiencing armed engagements or the use of heavy weapons. Of the total 540,000 Palestine refugees in Syria, almost all require assistance. Click here to read more.

Latest News

The Syria Crisis and Palestine refugees

Three years of persistent conflict and deteriorating economic conditions in Syria have challenged the resilience of Palestine refugees and Syrians alike. Proportionately, displacement among Palestinians – conservatively estimated to be somewhere over 50 per cent – is significantly higher than the proportion of Syrians displaced by the conflict.

The vast majority of the population of approximately 540,000 Palestine refugees in Syria is now unable to meet its daily needs. A September 2013 needs assessment found that the most vulnerable – female headed households, the elderly living alone, people with disabilities and young children – make up about 30 per cent of the total population of Palestine refugees in Syria.

All nine Palestine refugee camps are affected by the conflict. This has caused not only extreme hardship and widespread displacement but also an unravelling of their social structure and support networks in Syria. Palestine refugees' coping mechanisms are stretched by unemployment, inflation and lack of access to goods and services. This compounding poverty exposes them to new vulnerabilities.

Read more in the Syria Crisis Response Appeal 2013-2014 and the Syria Crisis Response Mid-Year Review 2014

Facts and Figures

Displacement of Palestine refugees from Syria in 2014

As of August 2014, out of approximately 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, over 50 per cent or 270,000 are estimated to have been displaced within Syria. Sixteen UNRWA installations across Syria house 6,437 internally displaced persons (IDPs), of whom nine per cent are Syrians, and a further 4,631 Palestinians are sheltered in other UNRWA-managed installations, a small increase since the previous report. 

Another 70,000 are either in neighboring countries and further afield .In Lebanon, 42,000 PRS have been recorded with UNRWA; in Jordan 14,290 and in Gaza 860 Palestine refugees from Syria have approached UNRWA for assistance. The Agency also received reports of around 4,000 Palestine refugees in Egypt and smaller numbers in Libya, Turkey and East Asia. Read more here. 

Gap 48.11
Coverage 51.89

Funding Requirements

From 1 January to 31 December 2014, UNRWA will provide urgent humanitarian
assistance to up to 440,000 Palestine refugees affected by conflict in Syria, as many
as 80,000 to 100,000 Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) in Lebanon, up to 20,000
PRS in Jordan and up to 1,200 PRS in Gaza. The number of people in need
is rapidly approaching the total population of 540,000 Palestine refugees
registered in Syria.

For this period, UNRWA requires US$ 417.4 million, of which US$ 310 million will
be programmed inside Syria, US$ 90.4 million in Lebanon and US$ 14.6 million
in Jordan
. US$ 2.4 million is required for regional management and emergency response
outside of the purview of these three field offices, including cash assistance for PRS
families in Gaza. This is a conservative reckoning of what is required to address the
most basic requirements of a community unravelling and in acute distress.

Click here for more information

Total Appeal$417,400,000
Received to Date$216,600,000

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