Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 64)

25 November 2013
UNRWA Commissioner-General Addresses UN General Assembly on 6 November and UNRWA’s Advisory Commission on 18 November

UNRWA Commissioner-General Addresses UN General Assembly on 6 November and UNRWA’s Advisory Commission on 18 November

On 6 November UNRWA Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi, addressed the 4th Committee of the UN General Assembly highlighting the plight of Palestine refugees (PR) in Syria and those displaced from Syria throughout the region. The Commissioner-General called for more funding for the Agency to cope with the unprecedented increased needs of PR as a result throughout its fields of operations including Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

The Commissioner-General highlighted UNRWA’s grave concern “about the Palestinian camps and communities that for many months have remained out of reach” in Syria (see Yarmouk below) and called on the Committee “to join UNRWA to condemn in the strongest terms the profound suffering being endured by civilians trapped in these situations and to appeal to the Syrian authorities and all other parties to allow Palestinian civilians – wherever they live in Syria – the full spectrum of protection to which they are entitled”. See /newsroom/official-statements/statement-filippo-grandi-commissioner-general-unrwa-fourth-committee


The Commissioner-General reiterated these comments at UNRWAs Advisory Commission on 18 November appealing to everyone “not to forget that the Syria crisis has - among many others - a Palestinian dimension which needs special attention and funding, because a second dispossession brings human suffering, but also risks changing the geography of Palestinian exile, complicating further the search for a solution to the overall Palestine refugee question, and this in parallel to the new, massive refugee crisis”. In addition, “Clearly, the plight of civilians in Syria will only cease when fighting stops and a political solution is found. But more efforts, meanwhile, must be made to protect them.” See /newsroom/official-statements/statement-filippo-grandi-commissioner-general-unrwa-opening-session


Conflict is increasingly encroaching on UNRWA camps with shelling and clashes continuing to take place in and nearby them. A reported 29 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed in the last 2 weeks as a result. UNRWA estimates over 50% of registered PR are displaced in Syria or in neighbouring countries.

Approximately 235,000 refugees are displaced in Syria with over 200,000 in Damascus, around 6,600 in Aleppo, 4,500 in Latakia, 3,050 in Hama, 6,450 in Homs and 13,100 in Dera’a. 10,487 PR from Syria (PRS) have registered with UNRWA for assistance in Jordan and 50,300 in Lebanon. Reports of 6,000 PRS in Egypt, 1,100 in Libya, 1,000 in Gaza and numbers in Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

  1. Situation summary

  • Despite considerable challenges UNRWA is continuing to deliver emergency relief, health and education services to PR across Syria.
  • Intermittent and sporadic hostilities including shelling and mortars continued in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Barzeh, Jobar, Qaboun and Dera’a. A total 29 PR were reportedly killed as a result: 21 in Yarmouk, 1 in Yalda and 7 in Dera’a, an increase from previous weeks.  
  • YARMOUK AND SBEINEH CAMPS continue to be sealed off. UNRWA is gravely concerned about an estimated 20,000 PR trapped in Yarmouk amid continuing intensive armed conflict. All access points remain sealed with reports of malnutrition among children and the elderly as a result of severe food shortages. UNRWA made food deliveries to several dozen families but was forced to again halt operations due to an upsurge in conflict. The Agency is continuing to stand by with assistance if arrangements can be made with the parties to the conflict to deliver aid safely. See /newsroom/official-statements/unrwa-demands-humanitarian-access-yarmouk
  • POLIO: UNRWA participating in a national immunisation campaign targeting polio, measles, mumps and rubella in cooperation with Ministry of Health and UNICEF. The Agency has increased polio surveillance among PR and no cases have been detected so far.





  • All area offices and Syria Field Office in Damascus operational all week with most staff attending.
  • 8 staff members have been killed, 20 staff are currently detained or reported missing and 15 injured. 22 UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and not accounted for. Two staff members were injured due to ongoing hostilities in the period and a staff member and truck delivering food baskets to IDP centres was detained with the truck still not released


UNRWA is sheltering 7,983 (-117 from the previous report) displaced PR and Syrians in 18 Agency facilities in Syria of which 84%, 6,706 are PR (see table 1). There has been a slow decline in the number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities since August. A further 3,649 (-342 from the previous report) PR are being sheltered in 13 non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia. Nearly 18,000 PR have been identified by UNRWA in Hama, Homs and Latakia having fled from Damascus and Aleppo.

  1. Humanitarian Response


Education in Emergency

  • Over 43,000 PR children enrolled with UNRWA attending 42 regular UNRWA schools, some working on a triple shift, and 36 governmental schools the Ministry of Education agreed UNRWA can use in the afternoon where UNRWA schools are damaged or are temporary collective shelters. UNRWA is conducting maintenance at the government schools when required.
  • 42 out of 118 UNRWA schools are operating, 68 are closed due to damage or insecurity, 8 because they are operating as temporary collective shelters for PR and displaced Syrians. A further 8 schools are partially hosting displaced PR and Syrians and also operating as schools.
  • Over 1,700 UNRWA teachers are working and 30 psychosocial counselors. Self-learning materials are being prepared for all grades in coordination with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF.
  • Implementation of 2 programmes, School-Based Teacher Development programme and Leading for the Future, has been launched targeting teachers in grades 1-6 and headteachers in Damascus.

Engaging Youth

  • Youth development and community support: 1125 students receiving psychosocial support, first aid training, life skills and extra-curricular/ stress-release activities in UNRWA camps and temporary collective shelters in Damascus, Hama and Latakia. Preparing to extend to further camps.
  • Vocational education: 1376 students undertaking a wide range of short-term vocational education courses in Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia including accountancy, electronics, hear and beauty, cooking, graphic design, human resources and nursing. Further courses being prepared.
  • Career guidance: 444 young people receiving in Damascus, Dera’a, Homs and Latakia.
  • Business development: 34 young people in Damascus undertaking activities including start-up training and follow-up. Preparation for extending this to Homs.
  • Continuing education: 1939 young people undertaking courses in English, French, computer skills, literacy and numeracy in Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia with preparations to extend further.

Health in Emergency

  • Health centres and points: 5 health centres operational in Damascus; and 1 each in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. 6 health points in Damascus, a new centre opened in rural Damascus and 1 in Aleppo. 3 more health points are being planned in Damascus.
  • Medical supplies: drug supplies distributed to north, south and Damascus areas enough to cover until end February 2014. Drug supplies distributed to health centres and points in Damascus.
  • Hospitalisation: reimbursements of non-contracted hospital bills, granting PR in Syria access to health facilities across the country.
  • Infectious diseases: participating in national immunisation campaign targeting polio (0-5 years), measles, mumps and rubella (1-15 years) in cooperation and coordination with Ministry of Health and UNICEF. Enhancement of polio surveillance among PR and no cases detected so far.  See /newsroom/features/unrwa-responds-polio-outbreak
  • Increase in prevalence of psycho-social trauma, stress/anxiety disorders reported.

Emergency Relief

  • Cash assistance: 3rd round distribution almost complete with 85,254 PR families in Damascus referred to outlets to receive their emergency cash assistance. 3rd round cash distribution ongoing in central Syria targeting 9,035 PR families (4,045 in Homs, 2,113 in Hama and 2,877 in Latakia).
  • 2nd round of cash distributions completed in Dera’a and Ein El Tal, the latter reaching 1,285 PR families.  Distribution for 2nd round absentees and other areas in Aleppo being prepared. 3rd round of distributions in Dera’a and northern Syria being prepared.
  • Food and NFI distributions: 2nd round of food distributions ongoing with plan to reach 84,951 families in Damascus. 126,827 portions of canned food distributed in this period in Damascus, 3,771 portions of milk, over 2,600 diapers and nearly 6000 female hygiene kits. 6 distribution centres continue to be operational in Damascus.
  • Continuing work with Iraqi PR in Syria including regular counselling and visits in cooperation with UNHCR and local partners.

Water and sanitation in emergency

  • Sanitation: Continuing to provide regular sanitation services to all PR camps and UNRWA facilities. Garbage collection and removal on a regular basis for all PR camps and temporary collective centres but one. Regular maintenance of 200 UNRWA facilities and upgrading sewage systems.
  • Water: Work being conducted on the well in Neirab and new water pump installed. Gaining government approval for digging a new well in Hama camp and providing safe drinking water to temporary collective shelters. Shower units being installed in 4 temporary collective shelters and ongoing shelter improvements and maintenance works.
  • Hygiene: Providing chlorine tablets for camps and temporary collective shelters. Winterization: activities for temporary collective shelters are in progress.


Financed 444 microfinance loans in September valued at SYP 15.93 million (131 in Tartous, 125 in Latakia, 125 in Sweyda and 63 in Damascus). Newly established branch offices in Latakia, Tartous and Sweyda are increasing the outreach of the programme.

Portfolio at risk is less than 1%. The programme had to write off 8,534 loans as a result of the conflict, of which 13% are now closed and 17% are collected from.

Survey completed on the impact of the crisis on the living conditions of the microfinance clients, their households and enterprises. The second in a series of quarterly reports on socioeconomic conditions in Syria, funded by the EU published online at /resources/reports/war-development-socioeconomic-monitoring-report-syria

Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria cumulative since March 2011 as of 17 November 2013

Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013 by location and type as of 17 November 2013



50,300 PRS registered with UNRWA in Lebanon

32% are in Saida, 19% in Tyre, 17% in central Lebanon and 16% each in northern Lebanon and Beqaa. 52% live in UNRWA camps and the rest live in private rented accommodation or informal gatherings.

Education: 7,220 PRS children are attending UNRWA schools: 85% are attending special classes for PRS including recreational activities and 15% are integrated in UNRWAs regular classes for PR in Lebanon. A new centre was opened to accommodate more students and 310 more teaching staff and psychosocial counselors were recruited. Continuing to encourage PRS parents to enrol their children in school.

Health: Delivering medical consultations and medication through 27 UNRWA health centres in which over 65,000 PRS have received services since July 2012. Cover primary health and 50% of secondary and tertiary hospitalisation. New Emergency Room Service for PRS introduced at contracted secondary care hospitals where UNRWA will cover all costs. PRS patients suffering from critical health conditions further supported through a CARE programme which provides additional support to cover medical bills.

Relief: Over 14,400 ATM cards distributed to PRS across Lebanon. 13,000 PRS families have received cash assistance through the cards credited with $33 per person and the remainder will receive this by end November.  A joint UNRWA-WFP needs assessment is ongoing and planning for distribution of winterization packages.

Protection: Continuing to monitor and offer advice and assistance to PRS crossing at the border and advocate with Lebanese Government for equal treatment of all refugees at the border. Conducting assessments of unaccompanied and separated minors to prepare referrals where appropriate.

Environmental Health: Continuing to repair water and sewerage systems in PR camps to cope with additional strain from PRS and preparing an environmental health awareness campaign for PRS.

Funding: 94% of the $65 million appeal for 2013 has been received or committed from donors including EU, US, Germany, Kuwait, Japan, France, OCHA, Italy, Australia, UNICEF, Norway, Ireland, SDC, Qatar Red Crescent Society, US Friends of UNRWA, Iceland, Hungary and an in-kind donation from Sweden.



10,487 PRS are recorded with UNRWA in Jordan

They receive relief, education, health and protection services. Average 560 new PRS registered per month since April 2013. Most reside in communities with host families or in rental premises in Irbid, Zarqa and Amman. 191 reside in Cyber City government appointed facility in Irbid. A large number live in abject poverty and their precarious legal status creates difficulties for civil processes, access to services and employment. 57% have Jordanian nationality/ documentation, 22% Palestinian and 20% Syria. 1.1% have no documentation. 96% come from three governorates in Syria: Damascus Rural (40%), Damascus city (37%) and Dera’a (19%).

 Education: Opened admission to UNRWAs 173 schools across Jordan to PRS and Syrian IDP children residing in 10 official and 3 unofficial PR camps. 1,728 displaced PRS children continue their education from grade 1 to 10 in UNRWA schools. 1,188 PRS children are also reportedly enrolled in Government or private schools. Continuing outreach with PRS to encourage families to enroll their children. Also providing technical and vocational education opportunities to PRS youth with 15 following courses in UNRWA’s technical training centers and teacher training institute in Jordan.

Relief: Transitioned to a “cash only” approach and will start to shift to ATM cash transfer for cash assistance and cash for food and NFIs instead of distributions which ended in September. Distributed USD1.9m in over 30,000 payments to PRS in 2013. 6,747 PRS have received 1 or more installment depending on their arrival date. 260 PRS have received an urgent cash assistance to address a specific shock or critical need. Delays in receiving donor funding is affecting scheduled distributions. Renovating three floors of Cyber City facility including bathrooms and electricity.

Health: Continuing to provide free primary health care to PRS in all 24 UNRWA clinics across Jordan and referrals with full coverage to government hospitals. Caseworkers continue to refer PRS with psychosocial problems. So far in 2013 PRS have made 14,125 free consultations.

Protection: Training delivered to 40 protection social workers, relief and social services officers on protection focusing on international humanitarian/ refugee law, UNRWAs protection mandate, the protection environment for PRS in Jordan and how to identify and refer vulnerable people. Four more similar trainings planned for November and December.

Outreach materials for PRS in Jordan produced including nearly 10,000 brochures outlining how to access UNRWA services and durable cards with protection hotline contact number. They will be distributed in the coming weeks.

Funding: PRS response plan for Jordan is 89% funded by UK, US , OCHA, Switzerland, European Union (EU), Japan, Kuwait and New Zealand. However, delays in processing USD 2.2m of this is impacting assistance.

Security summary


Damascus / Rif Damascus:

In the East intermittent to intensive clashes and shelling at the beginning of the period around Barzeh, Jobar and Qaboun and adjacent areas of Zamalka and Eastern Ghouta subsided to intermittent for most of the period, a slight increase on the previous weeks. All UNRWA facilities remain closed in the areas except 2 schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.  A staff member was shot and injured in the area.

In the South, varying sporadic and intermittent clashes and shelling continued in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Douma and Qabr Essit although Ramadan continued to be relatively calm. Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in Yarmouk throughout the period with 21 PR reportedly killed as a result of the conflict in Yarmouk alone, an increase on previous weeks. Within this, social media reported 2 PR accused of collaborating with the security forces were executed by opposition elements and reports were received 1 PR child may have died due to malnutrition. 1 PR also died in Yalda.

Sporadic and intermittent clashes and shelling continued in the southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh around the same levels as in previous weeks. Not as many shells impacted in the areas and no PR deaths were reported. The main roads to the areas remained cut off or blocked by the security forces and a staff member and truck transporting food baskets to IDP centres in Khan Eshieh were detained with the truck not released.

Yarmouk and Sbeineh camps remain sealed off with access blocked by the security forces. Less than 30% of Yarmouk residents remain and less than 5% in Sbeineh with armed opposition elements present in both. Facilities also remain closed in Douma, Jobar, Qaboun and Barzeh due to ongoing conflict in and around them. PR that remain in these camps are extremely vulnerable with limited or no flight options.

Aleppo: Intermittent clashes and shelling at the beginning of the period became intensive continuing through to the end of the period. Mortars landed near UNRWA area office and hostilities remained the same as previous reporting periods. Ein El Tal: A reported 30 families have returned to the camp but it otherwise remains deserted and occupied by armed opposition groups with the main road to the camp blocked. Reports 3 mortars impacted in the camp at the beginning of the period and clashes in the camp allegedly between opposition elements. Otherwise relatively calm. Neirab camp and surrounding areas remained relatively calm as in previous weeks until the end of the period when a shell impacted in the camp, intensive shelling reportedly killed 1 PR and a staff member was injured by shrapnel. All schools were then closed as a result of surrounding hostilities.

Dera’a: Varying sporadic and intensive clashes and shelling in the period including in the vicinity of the camp. Several shells regularly impacted in the camp reportedly killing 7 PR as a result, an increase on previous weeks, and injuring many. A female staff member was also detained by the security forces. Mzerieb: Relatively calm for most of the reporting period and all facilities operational as in previous reports. Jillien remained mostly relatively calm as in previous weeks.

Homs: Varying intensive and intermittent clashes and shelling continued from previous weeks but Homs camp remained relatively calm as in previous weeks. Hama: The camp remained relatively calm in most of the period except for an IED reported 5km from the camp, with all facilities operational as in previous weeks. Latakia: remained relatively calm throughout with all facilities operational in the camp as in previous weeks.

Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 18 November 2013 showing variation (in brackets) with last update Issue 63  






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)

517 (+4)

447 (-1)

950 (-4)

1914 (-1)

Damascus (Mezzeh)





Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)





Damascus (Ramadan Camp)

307 (+9)

264 (-101)

599 (-27)

1170 (-119)

Damascus (Dummar)





Damascus (Rukn Eddin)

166 (+2)

139 (+1)


561 (+3)

Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)





















2173 (+15)

2017 (-101)

3793 (-31)

7983 (-117)


The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria overall decreased by 117 from the previous update report Issue 63. The largest decrease was in Ramadan camp (-119), there was a slight decrease in Jaramana camp and slight increase in Rukn Eddin, all in Damascus. This is in line with a fairly constant trend since August as shown in the graph below.

Graph 4: Displaced Palestinian and Syrian refugees in UNRWAs facilities in Syria, monthly peaks