Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 66)

23 December 2013
Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 66)

 (3 – 16 December 2013)


Conflict is increasingly encroaching on UNRWA camps with shelling and clashes continuing to take place in and nearby them. A reported 7 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 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 50,800 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.
  • So far in the conflict 10 staff members have been killed, 20 are currently detained or reported missing and 16 injured. 22 UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and not accounted for. 1 Staff member, a teacher, was detained in Hama in this period and UNRWAs office in Aleppo was damaged due to rockets/ mortars detonating nearby, although no staff were injured as a result.
  • Intermittent and sporadic hostilities in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Barzeh, Jobar, Qaboun and Dera’a. 6 PR were reportedly killed as a result: 5 in Yarmouk and 1 in Salhiyel. This was a vast decrease from previous weeks. Another female PR was reportedly found dead after she disappeared from a camp, presumably the result of homicide.
  • 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 /newsroom/official-statements/unrwa-demands-humanitarian-access-yarmouk
  • 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.
  • All area offices and Syria Field Office in Damascus operational all week with most staff attending.



UNRWA is sheltering 7,659 (-309 from the previous report) displaced PR and Syrians in 18 Agency facilities in Syria of which 83%, 6,357 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 2,554 PR (-252 from the previous report) are being sheltered in 14 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.

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.

Psychosocial counsellor training workshop, Beirut 28 November – 2 December


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 /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 85,287 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, 2nd and 3rd round absentees in Damascus and the north. 3rd round cash distribution ongoing in the north including Ein El Tal and Neirab for over 5,300 families and in the south (Dera’a) for over 3,100 families.
  • Food and NFI distributions: 2nd round of food distributions ongoing with plan to reach nearly 85,000 families 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 /resources/reports/war-development-socioeconomic-monitoring-report-syria

First Aid: 63 UNRWA senior managers attended three first aid courses in December in Damascus bringing the total number of staff members trained on first aid in Syria in 2013 to nearly 300.

Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria cumulative since March 2011 as of 11 December 2013


Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013 by location and type as of 11 December 2013



50,800 PRS registered with UNRWA in Lebanon

32% are in Saida, 19% in Tyre, 18% 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: 7,300 PRS children are attending UNRWA schools: 86% are attending special classes for PRS including recreational activities and 14% 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 68,000 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: 95% of recorded PRS have been given an ATM card credited with food assistance (50,000 LBP per person) and housing assistance (200,000 LBP per family of 1-3 persons and 300,000 LBP for families of more than 3 persons).

Nationwide winterization assistance plan started on 5 December for recorded PRS. This includes additional blankets, clothing and heating with 15,000 PRS families eligible for winterization assistance. UNRWA is covering 100% in Beqaa and Central Lebanon Area and 76% in Tripoli, Saida and Tyre with partners covering the remainder. UNICEF is supporting UNRWA by providing $40 per child for clothing and heating in UNRWAs schools in Beqaa.

UNRWA is coordinating with several international partners for this: Caritas, Danish Refugee Council, Nabaa, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Terre des Hommes (Italy), Welfare Association and World Vision. 1050 hygiene kits have been provided to Oxfam for distribution in gatherings in south Lebanon via our partner Popular Aid for Relief and Development (PARD).

A joint UNRWA-WFP needs assessment is ongoing.

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.

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, food and NFI assistance 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.




: 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 Jobar, Qaboun, Barzeh and the adjacent area Eastern Ghouta. Hostilities were intensive in Barzeh for a day early in the period but overall hostilities in the areas continued at the same levels.  All UNRWA facilities remain closed in the areas due to the conflict except 2 schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.

In the South, sporadic clashes and shelling continued around and to a lesser extent in 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 nearby areas.

Sporadic clashes and shelling continued around Yarmouk with 5 PR reportedly killed as a result, around the same level as previous weeks. 3 were allegedly caught in crossfire while participating in a demonstration against the ongoing blockade.

Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in the southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh, at the same level as previous weeks. 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. PR that remain are extremely vulnerable with limited or no flight options.

Aleppo: Varying intermittent, intensive and sporadic hostilities in the period, a slight increase on previous weeks. Several mortars/ rockets detonated near UNRWAs office in the middle of the reporting period causing extensive damage to windows, doors and furniture, parts of the roof and a wall, although no staff were injured.  The office was closed for a number of days for repairs as a result. Media reported intensive airstrikes on 15 December but this did not affect UNRWAs office or PR as yet reported. Ein El Tal: Intensive clashes in the vicinity of the camp throughout the reporting period, a slight decrease on the previous weeks. Some shells impacted in the camp but with no related casualties. 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. Neirab camp: Intensive clashes and shelling early in the period in the vicinity of the camp followed by sporadic clashes between Palestinian armed elements and the security forces inside the camp after the security forces detained a Palestinian armed group leader. Community members are working to resolve the dispute and sporadic shelling was seen in the vicinity of the camp at the end of the period. Overall this is a decrease from the previous weeks.

Dera’a: Sporadic and intensive clashes and shelling in the vicinity of the camp at the beginning of the period, then calm for some days. This was followed by more sporadic shelling in the vicinity of the camp including a small number of shells impacting in the camp. Overall this is a decrease on previous weeks with no PR killed. Mzerieb and Jillien: Both remained relatively calm for the reporting period with all facilities operational as in previous reports.

Homs: Varying sporadic and intensive clashes and shelling continued from previous weeks in the city including explosions and airstrikes in the middle of the period. However, 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 except for the security forces detaining an UNRWA staff member. Reports of two IEDs and VBIED in or near the town. Latakia: fairly calm with all facilities operational as in previous weeks. However, in the middle of the reporting period a group of angry displaced PR threatened to invade UNRWAs offices over a perceived lack of assistance. In addition an incident occurred with a PR beneficiary: they were not allowed to enter a distribution centre when they refused to queue in line, and returned with a group of around 50 armed males. An altercation followed with minor injuries, the person was detained by the security forces and the building door had to be repaired. Reports were also received of mortars impacting in the countryside.

Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 16 December 2013 showing variation (in brackets) with last update Issue 65  






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)

511 (-5)

454 (+4)

960 (-32)

1925 (-33)

Damascus (Mezzeh)

189 (+26)

156 (+7)

249 (+22)

594 (+55)

Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)





Damascus (Ramadan Camp)

  330 (+23)

283 (+19)

628 (+29)

1241 (+71)

Damascus (Dummar)





Damascus (Rukn Eddin)

65 (-101)

65 (-74)

142 (-114)

272 (-289)

Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)

384 (-23)

343 (-43)

692 (-47)

1419 (-113)

Damascus (Al Qaboun)





















2078 (-80)

1917 (-87)

3664 (-142)

7659 (-309)


The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria overall decreased by 309 from the previous update report Issue 65. The largest decrease was in Rukn Eddin (-289), followed by Khan Dunoun (-113) and Jaramana camp (-33). However, there were also increases in Ramadan camp (+71) and Mezzah (+55). All of these are in Damascus. This is a much larger decrease than in previous bi-weekly periods but is in line with an overall decreasing trend since August as shown in the graph below.


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