Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 65)

12 December 2013
Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 65)

UNRWA condemns the killing of its 10th staff member

UNRWA condemns the killing of another of its staff, the tenth to die as a result of the Syria conflict.

Suzan Ghazazweh, a teacher at Abbasyyeh School, Muzeirib, was killed by shrapnel in her home in the afternoon of 2 December when a shell struck her residence in Shamal Al Khatt Quarter, Dera’a. The explosion which took Ms. Ghazazweh’s life seriously injured her sister. The thoughts of UNRWA staff are with Ms. Ghazazweh’s distraught family.

This tragic death illustrates yet again the devastating impact of the Syria armed conflict on families and on civilian lives. In a war too frequently conducted in and around residential areas, and in which the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons is the norm, the international law obligation to protect civilians is overlooked, and the sanctity of human life is disregarded. As a result, thousands of Palestinians and Syrians civilians are needlessly paying the ultimate price. Sadly, they will continue to do so until the parties to the conflict comply with their obligations to protect civilians, and until the Syria conflict is peacefully resolved.

Born in 1956, Ms Ghazazweh served with UNRWA since September 2001 as a primary school teacher in Dera’a.  She is survived by two sons aged 20 and 22 years old.

UNRWA strongly deplores the mounting toll of civilian deaths and casualties in Syria, including among Palestinians and humanitarian workers. In line with the UN Security Council Presidential Statement of 2 October, 2013, the Agency repeats with renewed urgency its appeal to all parties to comply with their obligations under international law, particularly in relation to the protection of civilians. We urge all parties to abide by the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks and attacks against civilians and civilian objects. Once again, UNRWA calls on all concerned actors to redouble their efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the armed conflict in Syria.



Conflict is increasingly encroaching on UNRWA camps with shelling and clashes continuing to take place in and nearby them. A reported 23 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed[1] in the last 2 weeks as a result. UNRWA estimates over 50% of registered PR are displaced in Syria or in neighbouring countries.

Approximately 270,000 PR are displaced in Syria: 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. 10,687 PR from Syria (PRS) have registered with UNRWA in Jordan and 51,000 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.
  • 2 staff members were killed in Dera’a and Damascus. So far in the conflict 10 staff members have been killed, 19 are currently detained or reported missing and 16 injured. 22 UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and not accounted for. Stray bullets fell inside the UNRWA compound in Damascus and ammunition rounds impacted UNRWAs office in Aleppo but without injury or damage.
  • Intermittent and sporadic hostilities including shelling and mortars continued in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Barzeh, Jobar, Qaboun and Dera’a. 23 PR were reportedly killed[2] as a result: 6 in Yarmouk, 1 in Yalda 2 in Adra, 1 in the Ummyad Mosque, 3 in Neirab and 10 in Dera’a. This is a decrease on previous weeks but was more spread throughout Syria.
  • 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 continues to stand by with assistance if arrangements can be made with the parties to the conflict to deliver aid safely. See
  • POLIO: UNRWA is participating in national immunisation campaign targeting polio, measles, mumps and rubella in cooperation with Ministry of Health and UNICEF. The Agency has increased polio surveillance and no cases have been detected among PR so far. In cooperation with Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC), UNRWA delivered 2000 polio vaccine doses to Yarmouk.
  • A mission to Qabr Essit camp was conducted on 29 November and initial assessment of damage to UNRWA facilities made. A second mission to deliver assistance will be made when security permits.
  • All area offices and Syria Field Office in Damascus operational all week with most staff attending.



UNRWA is sheltering 7,968 (-15 from the previous report) displaced PR and Syrians in 18 Agency facilities in Syria of which 84%, 6,693 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 2,806 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 47,000 PR children enrolled with UNRWA. Over 20,000 attend 42 regular UNRWA schools with 4 of these working on a triple shift, and over 26,000 attend 36 governmental schools the Ministry of Education agreed UNRWA can use in the afternoon where UNRWA schools are damaged or are temporary collective shelters. Conducting maintenance works at these government schools including upgrading toilet units in Damascus.

42 out of 118 UNRWA schools operational, 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 are partially hosting displaced PR and Syrians and also operating as schools.


Pictures: damage to and destruction of

UNRWA school in Saida Zeynab




Over 1,750 UNRWA teachers are working as well as 30 psychosocial counsellors who received psychosocial training from 28 November- 1 December. Self-learning materials are being prepared for all grades in coordination with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF.


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: first round of vaccination campaign for polio (0-5 years) and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) (1-15 years) vaccines finished on 21 November. 23,583 children vaccinated against polio (70% of the target) and the second round will start on 8 December. 16,242 school children vaccinated against MMR and 18,956 children aged 1-5 years old. The vaccination campaign will continue at schools. In cooperation with PRC, UNRWA delivered 2000 polio vaccine doses to Yarmouk. See
  • Increase in prevalence of psycho-social trauma, stress/anxiety disorders reported.

Emergency Relief

  • Cash assistance: 3rd round distribution almost complete with 85,287 PR families in Damascus referred to outlets to receive their emergency cash assistance and 66,605 families receiving so far. Cash distributions will be completed in the coming weeks for non-registered PR families, SHCs, 2nd and 3rd round absentees. 3rd round cash distribution completed in central Syria targeting over 9,000 PR families in Homs, Hama and Latakia. 3rd round of distributions ongoing in southern Syria for over 3,100 families in Dera’a and in the north for over 3,800 families in Aleppo, Ein El Tal and Neirab.
  • Food and NFI distributions: 2nd round of food distributions ongoing with plan to reach nearly 85,000 families in Damascus. Over 37,600 canned food portions, 12,00 blankets, 4500 mattresses, 1,992 female hygiene kits and 530 food baskets distributed in this period in Damascus. 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, contracting to dig a new well in Hama camp and installing water pipes and pumps in Alliance. Providing safe drinking water to temporary collective shelters, installing shower units in 4 temporary collective shelters and ongoing shelter improvements and maintenance works.
  • Hygiene: Providing chlorine tablets and other hygiene equipment for camps and temporary collective shelters. Winterization: activities for temporary collective shelters are in progress.


Financed 649 microfinance loans in November valued at SYP 25.68 million (155 in Tartous, 218 in Latakia, 159 in Sweyda and 117 in Damascus). Planning to build the monthly loan disbursements to around 1,350 per month by April 2014 valued at around USD 409,000 each month. Newly established branch offices in Latakia, Tartous and Sweyda are increasing the outreach of the programme. Portfolio at risk is just 0.62%, the lowest of any field.

Wrote-off 6,587 loans in 2013 with bad debt but 16% of the bad loans were closed and 22% of the value of the debts were collected. A study undertaken on clients who were active in the programme in December 2012 showed 71% had been displaced with highest displacement in Yarmouk where 89% of clients were displaced. 40% of clients had their enterprises looted or stolen, 31% closed their businesses permanently and 13% temporarily. By June 2013 only 13% of businesses remained active.

The second in a series of quarterly reports on socioeconomic conditions in Syria, funded by the EU is published online at


Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria cumulative since March 2011 as of 3 December 2013

Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013 by location and type as of 3 December 2013


51,000 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.



10,687 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 and 115 have left Jordan mostly to return to Syria. 98% of PRS reside in communities with host families or in rental premises in Irbid, Zarqa and Amman. 190 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. 95% come from three governorates in Syria: Damascus Rural, Damascus city and Dera’a.

PRS in Jordan by age, gender and domicile in Syria

Education: Opened admission to UNRWAs 173 schools across Jordan to PRS and Syrian IDP children residing in 10 official and 3 unofficial PR camps. 1,835 receive education from grades 1 to 10 in UNRWA schools. 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. Training for teachers and headteachers in December 2013 on addressing PRS challenges.

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 USD 2m in cash assistance to PRS in 2013. 8,544 PRS have received 1 or more installment depending on their arrival date. 901 PRS have also received an urgent cash assistance payment to address a specific shock or critical need. Delays in receiving/ processing donor funding continue to affect scheduled distributions.


Cyber City: renovating shower and toilet units and replacing electrical wires in the government-appointed facility in coordination with SRCD and UNHCR.

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. PRS have made 14,125 free consultations in 2013.

Protection: Training delivered to 126 staff including 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.





Outreach materials produced and being distributed including nearly 8,000 brochures on how to access UNRWA services and cards with protection hotline contact number.

Information management strengthened with improvements to the registration systems, piloting of a new database to manage protection cases and regular monitoring of service provision.

Funding: Response plan is 90% funded by UK, US , OCHA, Switzerland, European Union (EU), Japan, Kuwait and New Zealand. However, delays in processing contributions continue to impact assistance.


Security summary


Damascus / Rif Damascus:

In the East intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling throughout the period around Barzeh, Jobar and Qaboun and adjacent areas of Zamalka and Eastern Ghouta, a slight decrease from previous weeks. All UNRWA facilities remain closed in the areas except 2 schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.  A staff member was killed along with 3 passengers in Eastern Ghouta when they were travelling to the airport.

In the South, varying sporadic and intermittent clashes and shelling continued in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Douma and Qabr Essit showing a slight reduction on previous weeks. Ramadan continued to be relatively calm as in previous weeks except for clashes in the vicinity of the camp.

Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in Yarmouk throughout the period with 6 PR reportedly killed as a result of the conflict in Yarmouk alone, although this is a reduction on previous weeks. 1 allegedly was shot by a sniper while participating in a demonstration against the ongoing blockade.

Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in the southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh, a slight reduction from previous weeks. Not as many shells impacted in the areas and no PR deaths were reported. The main roads to the areas remain cut off or blocked by the security forces.

Yarmouk and Sbeineh 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, although rumours that some armed elements may have left Yarmouk. 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: Intensive shelling early in the period with mortars again impacting near the UNRWA office decreased to intermittent then increased to intensive at the end of the period. Ammunition rounds hit the UNRWA office building during the period but without damage or injuries. 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. The camp remained relatively calm for most of the period but late in the period several mortars impacted in the camp and sporadic clashes were reported with reports some of the remaining PR left as a result. This is a slight increase in hostilities to previous weeks. Neirab camp: sporadic shelling early in the period in surrounding areas and schools continued to be closed as a result of previous hostilities. Intensive shelling in the middle of the period reportedly killed 2 PR and a PR child was also found dead at the health centre. The camp was relatively calm for the rest of the period. This represents an increase in hostilities to previous weeks.

Dera’a: Sporadic and intensive clashes and shelling in the period including in the vicinity of the camp. Shells regularly impacted in the camp reportedly killing 4 PR as a result, with unconfirmed social media reports an additional 6 PR were also killed, and injuring many. This is an increase on previous weeks. 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 including 2 VBIEDs and reported airstrikes but Homs camp remained relatively calm as in previous weeks. Hama: The camp remained relatively calm in most of the period with all facilities operational as in previous weeks. Reports of 2 IEDs near the town. 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 64  






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)

516 (-1)

450 (+3)

992 (+42)

1958 (+44)

Damascus (Mezzeh)

163 (-14)

149 (-16)

227 (-26)

539 (-56)

Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)



87 (-3)

219 (-3)

Damascus (Ramadan Camp)





Damascus (Dummar)





Damascus (Rukn Eddin)





Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)





















2158 (-15)

2004 (-13)

3806 (+13)

7968 (-15)


The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria overall decreased by 15 from the previous update report Issue 64. The largest decrease was in Mezzeh (-56) while there was an increase in Jaramana camp (+44), both in Damascus. This is a smaller overall decrease than in previous weeks but still 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


[1] Six are unconfirmed social media reports of deaths in Dera’a

[2] As above

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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