Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 67)

14 January 2014
Al-Rameh collective shelter, Jaramana, December 2013

 (17 December 2013 – 6 January 2014)


Conflict is increasingly encroaching on UNRWA camps, with shelling and clashes continuing to take place in and nearby them. A reported but unconfirmed 50 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed in the last three weeks as a result. UNRWA estimates over 50 per cent 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. In Jordan, 10,687 PR from Syria (PRS) have registered with UNRWA, and in Lebanon 51,300. There are 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.
  • Thus far in the conflict, 10 staff members have been killed, 20 are currently detained or reported missing and 16 injured. Twenty-two UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and remain unaccounted for. Several shells reportedly hit an UNRWA school in Khan Eshieh camp, and four mortar rounds impacted in the garden of an UNRWA school in Jaramana, injuring a student and causing minor damage.
  • Increasing tensions and violence reported from PR and militia against UNRWA staff. Aggressive and threatening behavior against UNRWA staff was reported from one armed PR in Aleppo and two in Homs. In Jaramana, a staff member was assaulted and threatened by armed local militia, demanded relief supplies. An altercation between IDPs at an UNRWA temporary collective shelter in Jaramana escalated to involve local militia and shots fired in the air. Some relief items were confiscated from an UNRWA distribution point in Khan Dunoun by personnel manning the checkpoint.
  • Intermittent and sporadic hostilities continued in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Jobar, Qaboun, Khan Eshieh and Dera’a, with airstrikes reportedly impacting in Dera’a camp. An unconfirmed 50 PR were reportedly killed as a result: 23 in Yarmouk, 15 in Dera’a, 6 in Khan Eshieh, 2 each in Sbeineh and Qabr Essit and 1 each in Ein El Tal and Homs. This is a rapid increase from previous reports.
  • Yarmouk and Sbeineh camps. All access points remained sealed. Malnutrition is widespread, which, along with lack of health care, is contributing to a rising number of deaths.
  • Polio. UNRWA is participating in a national immunization campaign targeting polio, measles, mumps and rubella in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF. Polio surveillance has been increased and no cases have been detected among PR so far.
  • All area offices and the Syria Field Office in Damascus were operational all week, with most staff attending.


UNRWA is sheltering 7,959 displaced PR and Syrians (+300 from the previous report) in 18 Agency facilities in Syria, of whom 6,606 (83 per cent) are PR (see table 1). This increase reverses a slow decline in the number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities since August 2013. A further 3,852 PR are being sheltered in 16 non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia. This is a large increase and the highest number since early October 2013. Nearly 18,000 PR have also 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 are enrolled with UNRWA. Over 20,000 are attending 42 regular UNRWA schools, 4 of which work on triple shifts, and over 26,000, where UNRWA schools are damaged or serving as temporary collective shelters, attend 36 governmental schools that the Ministry of Education agreed UNRWA could use in the afternoons. Maintenance works are being conducted at the government schools, including upgrading toilet units in Damascus.

Of 118 UNRWA schools, 42 are operational, 68 are closed due to damage or insecurity and 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 1,750 UNRWA teachers are working, as well as 30 psychosocial counsellors who received psychosocial training from 28 November to 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: 1,125 students are receiving psychosocial support, first aid training, life skills and extracurricular/stress-release activities in UNRWA camps and temporary collective shelters in Damascus, Hama and Latakia. UNRWA is preparing to extend this to other camps.

Vocational education: 1,376 students are undertaking a wide range of short-term vocational education courses in Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia, including accountancy, electronics, hair and beauty, cooking, graphic design, human resources and nursing. Further courses being prepared.

Career guidance: 444 young people are receiving this in Damascus, Dera’a, Homs and Latakia.

Business development: 34 young people in Damascus are undertaking activities including start-up training and follow-up. Preparations are being undertaken to extend this to Homs.

Continuing education: 1,939 young people are taking courses in English, French, computer skills, literacy and numeracy in Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia, with preparations underway to extend this further.

Health in Emergency

Health centres and points: Six health centres are operational in Damascus, and one each in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. Eight health points are operational in Damascus and a new centre is open in rural Damascus, as is another in Aleppo. Three more health points are being planned in Damascus.

Medical supplies and hospitalization: Drug supplies were distributed to the north, south and Damascus areas, enough to cover until the end of February 2014. Drug supplies have been distributed to health centres and points in Damascus. UNRWA is reimbursing non-contracted hospital bills, granting PR in Syria access to health facilities across the country.

Infectious diseases: a second round of the vaccination campaign for polio (0-5 years) and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) (1-15 years) was finished on 12 December. In cooperation with PRC, UNRWA delivered 2,000 polio vaccine doses to Yarmouk. See

An increase in the prevalence of psychosocial trauma and stress/anxiety disorders is reported.

Emergency Relief

  • Cash assistance: The third round distribution is almost complete, with 85,287 PR families in Damascus referred to outlets to receive emergency cash assistance, and 66,605 families receiving thus far. Cash distributions will be completed in the coming weeks for non-registered PR families and second- and third-round absentees in Damascus and the north. The third round cash distribution is 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: The second round of food distributions is ongoing, with a plan to reach nearly 85,000 families in Damascus. Six distribution centres remain operational in Damascus.
  • Work is continuing with Iraqi PR in Syria, including regular counselling and visits in cooperation with UNHCR and local partners.

Water and Sanitation in Emergency

  • Sanitation: UNRWA is continuing to provide regular sanitation services to all PR camps and UNRWA facilities. Garbage collection and removal on a regular basis continue for all PR camps and temporary collective centres but one. Regular maintenance of 200 UNRWA facilities is being undertaken, as is upgrading of sewerage systems. 
  • Water: Work is being conducted on the well in Neirab. UNRWA is contracting to dig a new well in Hama camp and is installing water pipes and pumps in Alliance. Safe drinking water is being provided to temporary collective shelters, shower units are being installed in four temporary collective shelters and ongoing shelter improvements and maintenance works are being undertaken.
  • Hygiene: Chlorine tablets and other hygiene equipment are being provided for camps and temporary collective shelters.
  • Winterization: Activities for temporary collective shelters are in progress.


The programme financed 649 microfinance loans (155 in Tartous, 218 in Latakia, 159 in Sweyda and 117 in Damascus) in November 2013, valued at SYP 25.68 million (US$ 227,360) and is planning to build the monthly loan disbursements to around 1,350 per month by April 2014, valued at around US$ 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 per cent, the lowest of any field.

The programme wrote off 6,587 loans with bad debt in 2013, of which 16 per cent were closed and 22 per cent of the value of the debts collected. A study undertaken on clients who were active in the programme in December 2012 showed 71 per cent had been displaced, with the highest displacement in Yarmouk, where 89 per cent of clients were displaced. Forty per cent of clients had their enterprises looted or stolen. Thirty-one per cent closed their businesses permanently and 13 per cent temporarily. The second in a series of quarterly reports on socioeconomic conditions in Syria, funded by the EU, is available online at

Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria, cumulative since March 2011, as of 31 December 2013  

Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013 by location and type, as of 31 December 2013


51,300 PRS registered with UNRWA in Lebanon

Thirty-one per cent are in Saida, 19 per cent in Tyre, 18 per cent in central Lebanon and 16 per cent each in northern Lebanon and Beqaa. Fifty-one per cent live in UNRWA camps and the rest live in private rented accommodation or informal gatherings.

Education: 7,338 PRS children are attending UNRWA schools: 86 per cent are attending special classes for PRS and 14 per cent are integrated in regular UNRWA classes for PR in Lebanon. A new centre was opened to accommodate more students, and 310 more teaching staff and psychosocial counsellors were recruited. UNRWA continues to encourage PRS parents to enrol their children in school. Around 82 per cent of PRS students are attending school on a daily basis. UNRWA has appointed five clerks for PRS education issues.

Health: UNRWA is delivering medical consultations and medication through 27 health centres, in which over 68,000 PRS have received services since July 2012. UNRWA covers primary health care and 50 per cent of secondary and tertiary hospitalization. A new emergency room service for PRS was introduced at contracted hospitals where UNRWA will cover all costs. PRS patients suffering from critical health conditions are further supported through a CARE programme, which provides additional support to cover medical bills.

Relief: Winterization programme was implemented with partners to provide additional support to PRS families during the cold winter months. Basic winterization assistance was distributed to 14,177 families (93 per cent of recorded PRS families) from 5 December. The remaining 7 per cent will receive distributions in January 2014. Assistance comprised: cash for adult clothing (US$ 50 per family) and children’s clothing (US$ 40 provided by UNICEF), and one month’s fuel allowance (US$ 100). Additional assistance provided from 28 November by UNRWA and its partners included 1 blanket per person, a heater and fuel refill. UNRWA covered 76 per cent of PRS and partner agencies covered 24 per cent through in-kind, voucher or cash contributions. Bedding kits were also distributed in the Beqaa area to 1,720 families from 2 to 20 December.

Most assistance was distributed by crediting ATM cards issued to PRS in autumn 2013, except for 116 separated or unaccompanied minors who were supported directly by UNRWA staff through visits and payments.

UNRWA coordinated closely with partner agencies to respond to the PRS crisis. Five general coordination meetings were held in December in each area of operation in Lebanon, as well as bilateral meetings. A national coordination meeting addressing the winterization programme was held on 2 December. The joint UNRWA–WFP needs assessment has been completed. The final report will be ready by end of January and results will be shared with donors.

Regular distributions for housing and food assistance also took place on 18 December, targeting 14,011 PRS families across Lebanon. ATM cards were credited with LBP 200,000 (US$ 133) per family of up to three persons, and LBP 300,000 (US$ 199) per family of three or more persons for housing, and with LBP 50,000 (US$ 33) per person for food assistance.

Protection: UNRWA is continuing to monitor and offer advice and assistance to PRS crossing at the border and to advocate with the Lebanese government for equal treatment of all refugees at the border.  UNRWA, in coordination with other UN agencies in Lebanon, is currently seeking clarification from the Lebanese General Security on the visa options available to PRS when they have been in Lebanon for one year. Assessments are also being conducted of unaccompanied and separated minors to prepare referrals where appropriate and continue to support minors requiring assistance through UNICEF funding.



10,687 PRS registered with UNRWA in Jordan

They receive relief, education, health and protection services. An average 560 new PRS were registered per month since April 2013, and 115 left Jordan, mostly to return to Syria. Most PRS – 98 per cent – reside in communities with host families or in rental premises in Irbid, Zarqa and Amman, while 190 reside in Cyber City, the 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. Of PRS in Jordan, 95 per cent come from three governorates in Syria: Damascus Rural, Damascus City and Dera’a.

PRS in Jordan by age, gender and domicile in Syria

Education: Admission to the 173 UNRWA schools across Jordan has been opened to PRS and Syrian IDP children residing in ten official and three unofficial PR camps. Agency schools educate 1,835 from grades one to ten in UNRWA schools. Technical and vocational education opportunities are also being provided to PRS youth, with 15 following courses in UNRWA technical training centres and the teacher training institute in Jordan. Training for teachers and head teachers was conducted in December 2013 on addressing PRS challenges.

Relief: UNRWA has 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. US$ 2 million was distributed in cash assistance to PRS in 2013; 8,544 PRS received one or more instalments, depending on their arrival date, while 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: Shower and toilet units are being renovated and electrical wires in the government-appointed facilities are being repaired in coordination with SRCD and UNHCR.

Health: UNRWA is 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 made 14,125 free consultations in 2013.

Protection: Training was delivered to 126 staff, including social workers and relief and social services officers, on protection, focusing on international humanitarian/refugee law, the UNRWA protection mandate, the protection environment for PRS in Jordan and how to identify and refer vulnerable people.

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

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

Funding: The response plan is 90 per cent funded by the 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, which became intensive in the middle of the period for one day. Overall hostilities continued at the same levels as previously, except in Barzeh, which became relatively calm at the end of the reporting period with accompanying media reports of a truce mediated by community leaders. However, all UNRWA facilities remain closed in the areas due to the hostilities, except two schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.

In the South: Sporadic, intermittent and occasionally intense clashes and shelling continued around the camps of Yarmouk, Douma and Qabr Essit, showing similar levels as previous weeks, but an increase in hostilities near Qabr Essit. Ramadan continued to be relatively calm, as in previous weeks. Sbeineh was relatively calm, except for clashes in nearby areas where two PR were reportedly shot and killed.

Sporadic, intermittent and, a small number of times, intense clashes and shelling continued around Yarmouk. There were 23 reported PR conflict-related deaths, including from lack of food and medical services. Three were reportedly killed by snipers while trying to leave the area. This is a large increase from previous reports.

Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in the south-west, including around Darayya and Moadhamiyeh, at the same levels of previous weeks. Hostilities were more intense in areas surrounding and occasionally within Khan Eshieh in the middle and end of the period. Several shells reportedly impacted in the camp and hit an UNRWA school and at least six PR were, according to unconfirmed reports, killed as a result of the hostilities. 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 per cent of Yarmouk residents remain, and less than 5 per cent in Sbeineh, with armed opposition elements present in both, although rumours suggest that some armed elements may have left Yarmouk. PR that remain are extremely vulnerable, with limited or no flight options.

Aleppo: There was sporadic shelling throughout the period, as well media reports of airstrikes on different opposition-held areas in the city. A number of mortar rounds impacted in the immediate vicinity of the UNRWA area office but without damage or casualties. However, this was a decrease from previous weeks. Ein El Tal: Intensive clashes continued in the vicinity of the camp, a slight decrease from previous weeks, but no direct contact was possible with anyone in the camp. The camp remains occupied by armed opposition groups, according to social media reports, and the number of PR inside the camp presumably remains very low. Neirab camp: Remained relatively calm for most of the reporting period, except for sporadic shelling in the vicinity of the camp one day. This is a decrease from previous weeks.

Dera’a: Sporadic and intermittent shelling and airstrikes in the vicinity of the camp continued throughout the period. Many shells and some airstrikes impacted in the camp, with reports of at least 15 PR killed as a result of the hostilities. This is an increase from previous weeks. Mzerieb and Jillien: Both remained relatively calm for most of the reporting period, with all facilities operational, as in previous reports, except for sporadic shelling in areas surrounding Mzerieb in the middle of the period.

Homs: Varying sporadic and sometimes intermittent and intense clashes and shelling continued from previous weeks in the city, a reduction from previous weeks. Homs camp remained mostly relatively calm. Hama: The camp remained relatively calm in most of the period, with all facilities operational, as in previous weeks, except for a search-and-cordon operation in the middle of the period for a number of days resulting in the detention of one PR. Latakia: Remained relatively calm, with all facilities operational, as in previous weeks.

Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 1 January 2014 showing variation (in brackets) from last update (Issue 66)






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)





Damascus (Mezzeh)





Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)





Damascus (Ramadan Camp)





Damascus (Dummar)

165 (+44)

154 (+15)

255 (-30) 

572 (+27)

Damascus (Rukn Eddin)

158 (+93)

145 (+80)

242 (+100)

545 (+273)

Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)





















2,213 (+135)

2,012 (+95)

3,734 (+70)

7,959 (+300)

The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria increased by 300 from the previous update report, Issue 66. The largest increase was in Rukn Eddin (+273), followed by Dummar (+27), both in Damascus. This is a large increase and against the overall trend, since August 2013, of decreasing numbers of Syrian PR and IDPs in UNRWA facilities.

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


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