Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 68)

27 January 2014
Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 68)

Issue 68 (7 – 20 January 2014)


A reported but unconfirmed 21 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed in the last two weeks as a result of the conflict. 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, 10,912 PR from Syria (PRS) have registered with UNRWA, and in Lebanon 51,264. 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.
  • So far in the conflict, 10 staff members have been killed, 22 are currently detained or reported missing and 16 injured. Twenty-two UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and not accounted for. Two UNRWA guards were detained in Aleppo and one vehicle was burgled in Aleppo. An altercation between IDP families in an UNRWA temporary collective shelter also resulted in a PR volunteer being injured.
  • Intermittent and sporadic hostilities continued in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Jobar, Qaboun, Khan Eshieh and Dera’a with airstrikes reportedly impacting in Yarmouk and Dera’a. An unconfirmed 21 PR were reportedly killed as a result: 15 in Yarmouk, 4 in Dera’a and 2 in Khan Eshieh. This is a decrease from the previous report.
  • 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.
  • YARMOUK: reportedly a small number of residents requiring medical assistance, mostly elderly, infirm, female and children, were able to leave the area. UNRWA made repeated attempts to deliver aid to the area. On 14 January UNRWAs aid convoy had to turn back because of gunfire. On 18 January 71 food parcels donated by UNRWA were delivered and distributed by local actors on the ground in consultation with the authorities. On 19 January UNRWAs aid convoy had to turn back because a person was shot in the vicinity. On 20 January UNRWA delivered 41 food parcels to the area. UNRWA distributed another 26 again on 21 January making a total of 138 food parcels. UNRWA continues to work with the government and attempt to gain access to the area to distribute aid to besieged PR there.

WHO has prepared a shipment of medical supplies to address the urgent health needs there, including medication for chronic diseases, first aid supplies, antibiotics, surgical kits, reproductive health kits, medication and 10,000 doses of polio vaccine to vaccinate 3,000 children.

  • 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 in 18 Agency facilities in Syria, showing no change from the previous report. Of these, 83 per cent (6,606) are PR (see table 1). A further 3,852 PR are being sheltered in 16 non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia. This also shows no change from the previous report, but is the highest number since early October 2013.


  1. Humanitarian Response



Over 47,000 PR children are enrolled with UNRWA. Over 20,000 attend 42 regular UNRWA schools, 4 working on triple shifts. Over 26,000 students attend 36 governmental schools the Ministry of Education (MoE) agreed UNRWA can use in the afternoon where UNRWA schools are damaged or are shelters.

Forty-two out of 118 UNRWA schools are operational. Sixty-eight are closed due to damage or insecurity and eight because they are operating as temporary collective shelters for PR and displaced Syrians. Eight are operating both as schools and temporary collective shelters. Over 1,750 UNRWA teachers are working, as are 30 psychosocial counsellors. Self-learning materials are being prepared for in coordination with MoE and UNICEF.

Over 5,016 ninth-grade students have joined remedial classes since 15 January 2014. The classes are meant to fill learning gaps caused by the conflict and are due to continue until 15 March 2014, funded by UNICEF.

Three hundred and fifty teachers have joined Damascus University Open Learning Class Teacher two-year study course to upgrade their qualifications under an agreement signed between UNRWA and MoE.

Engaging Youth

Youth development and community support: 1,125 students 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 further camps.

Vocational education: 1,376 students 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 are being prepared.

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

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

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


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 one in Aleppo.

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 third round of vaccination campaign for polio (0-5 years) and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) (1-15 years) finished on 9 January, with a total of 13,299 PR children vaccinated.

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 so far. Cash distributions will be completed in January for non-registered PR families; over 11,000 second- and third-round absentees in Damascus and the north and over 5,300 in southern and central Syria.
  • Food and NFI distributions: The second round of food distributions is ongoing, and since September, 46,788 families have received food baskets. Six distribution centres are operational in Damascus. The following NFIs were distributed in the period: over 11,500 food baskets, over 4,800 blankets, over 1,700 baby diapers, over 3,200 female hygiene materials, over 500 mattresses, 64 hygiene kits and 10 nursery kits. Fifty-four thousand portions of canned food were also distributed.
  • Work is continuing with Iraqi PR in Syria, including regular counselling and visits in cooperation with UNHCR and local partners.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Sanitation: UNRWA is continuing to provide regular sanitation services to all PR camps and UNRWA facilities. Garbage collection and removal is being conducted on a regular basis for all PR camps and temporary collective centres with additional sanitation labourers employed for this. Regular maintenance of 200 UNRWA facilities and temporary collective shelters is being undertaken, as is upgrading of sewerage systems in five camps.
  • Water: Work is being conducted on the well in Neirab, digging a new well is in progress in Hama camp and water supply pipes are being provided to temporary collective shelters. Safe drinking water is being provided to temporary collective shelters, camps and gatherings. Shower units are being installed in five temporary collective shelters, and hot water systems for showers and bathrooms in temporary collective shelters in Damascus area.
  • Hygiene: Chlorine tablets and other hygiene equipment are being provided for camps and temporary collective shelters. Winterization: Activities for temporary shelters are in progress.


The programme financed 554 microfinance loans in December 2013, valued at SYP 21.01 million (US$ 186,000) – 138 in Tartous, 160 in Latakia, 121 in Sweyda and 135 in Damascus. This brings the total outreach during 2013 to 3,392 loans worth SYP 132.02 million (US$ 1.17 million), 45 per cent of which were financed in the fourth  quarter, largely driven by recently opened branch offices in Tartous, Latakia and Sweyda, which are increasing outreach. The programme 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. The portfolio at risk remains very low at just 0.24 per cent, the lowest of any field.

The programme wrote off 6,594 loans with bad debt in 2013. Of the bad loans, 22 per cent were closed and 29 per cent of the value of the debts was collected. During 2013, women accounted for 36 per cent of clients, but in Yarmouk, due to the situation there, outreach fell to just 4 per cent. In Latakia, 2.4 per cent of loans went to PR, less than 1 per cent went to PR in both Tartous and Sweyda, 7 per cent in Yarmouk and 4 per cent in Saida Zeynab areas.

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 31 December 2013  

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



51,264 PRS registered with UNRWA in Lebanon

Of PRS, 31 per cent are in Saida, 19 per cent in Tyre, 18 per cent in central Lebanon, 16 per cent in northern Lebanon and 17 per cent in Beqaa; 51 per cent live in UNRWA camps and the rest live in private rented accommodation or informal gatherings.

Education: 7,394 PRS children are attending UNRWA schools: 86 per cent attend special classes for PRS and 14 per cent are integrated in regular UNRWA classes for PR in Lebanon. Around 82 per cent of PRS students are attending the schools on a daily basis and UNRWA continues to actively encourage parents to enrol their children. Additional classrooms have been constructed in two camps and supplies have been sent to PRS in UNRWA schools.

Health: UNRWA is delivering medical consultations and medication through its 27 health centres, where over 63,092 PRS have received services since July 2012. UNRWA covers primary health and 50 per cent of secondary and tertiary hospitalization. PRS suffering from critical health conditions are further supported through the CARE programme, which provides additional support to cover medical bills. UNRWA has purchased vital medicines and recruited additional staff to support primary health care throughout Lebanon.

Relief: Winterization Programme is being implemented with partners to provide additional support to PRS families during the cold winter months. Basic winterization assistance was distributed to 14,126 families (94 per cent of recorded PRS families) from 5 December. The remaining 6 per cent will receive distributions in January 2014. Assistance comprised: cash for adult and children’s clothing, some provided by UNICEF, and one month’s fuel allowance. Additional assistance provided by UNRWA and its partners included one blanket per person, a heater and fuel refill. UNRWA covered 76 per cent of PRS and partner agencies covered the remainder 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 separated or unaccompanied minors supported directly by UNRWA staff through visits and payments. A joint UNRWA–WFP needs assessment has been completed. The final report will be ready by the end of January and results will be shared with donors.

Regular distributions for housing and food assistance also took place on 18 December, benefitting 14,039 PRS families across Lebanon. ATM cards were credited with LBP 200,000 (US$ 133) per family of 1-3 persons and LBP 300,000 (US$ 200) per family of 3+ persons for housing, and with LBP 50,000 (US$ 33) per person for food assistance.

Shelter: During December, UNRWA completed shelter rehabilitation works in collective centres for PRS in Ein El Hilweh and Mieh Mieh camps, which benefited 13 families. Additional shelter rehabilitation projects have been approved for 36 families in the two camps.  As over 50 per cent of PRS reside in camps, this is placing additional strain on the already fragile environmental-health infrastructure. During December, UNRWA continued to provide gas oil to all camps where PRS are concentrated, as well as sanitary kits, cleaning supplies, refuse bins, insecticides, sodium hypochlorite and chlorinators for water disinfection. UNRWA is preparing an environmental-health awareness campaign with local NGOs, women’s programme centres, health centres and youth clubs.

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, due to the increasing number of PRS whose visas have expired.

Funding: Lebanon’s appeal for 2014 is US$ 90.4 million and to date US$ 35.6 million has been received for this. A number of in-kind donations have also been received including three secondments by the Government of Sweden.



10,912 PRS recorded with UNRWA in Jordan

PRS receive relief, education, health and protection services. An average 633 new PRS were registered per month in 2013, although there is a time lag of several months between the date of entry and first interview with UNRWA. Most PRS – 98 per cent –reside in local communities with host families or in rental premises, while 196 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 over 1,900 PRS interviewed, 95 per cent come from three governorates in Syria: Damascus Rural, Damascus City and Dera’a; 68 per cent are registered PR, 52 per cent are female and 48 per cent are under the age of 18. Women and children comprise 75 per cent of PRS.

Education: Admission is open to the 173 UNRWA schools across Jordan for PRS and Syrian IDP children residing in 10 official and 3 unofficial PR camps. In 2013, 1,834 PRS and Syrian refugee were enrolled in 136 UNRWA schools, and around 1,000 PRS children were reportedly enrolled in government or private schools. The enrolment rate for PRS is estimated at 58 per cent, lower than for Syrian children. UNRWA is systematically responding to drop-outs through targeted solutions. 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. Eighteen school and 176 teacher counsellors were trained in psychosocial support, and 4 more psychosocial counsellors are being recruited.

Relief: UNRWA transitioned to a ’cash only‘ approach and shifted to ATM cash transfer for cash, food and NFI assistance instead of physical distributions which ended in September 2013.

Cash: 9,350 PRS (87 per cent of those eligible) received cash assistance in 2013 at an average of US$ 257 per recipient; 80 per cent received two or more rounds and new PRS were prioritized. A one-off cash grant to address a specific shock or critical need was given to 1,017 PRS.

Food: 9,368 food parcels were distributed to 3,771 PRS in 2013.


Cash distribution in South Amman in November 2013

NFI: In-kind donations were generously received and distributed, including: 400 cleaning supplies, 46 hygiene kits, winter clothing vouchers for 254 children, fans and 1,200 blankets.

Health: UNRWA continues to provide free primary, emergency and lifesaving health care to PRS in all 24 UNRWA clinics across Jordan, and referrals with full coverage to government hospitals. PRS made over 17,000 free consultations in 2013 with an average of 1.6 consultations per PRS.


Vaccination campaign in Irbid, November 2013


Protection: A 24-hour hotline was established for counselling, case management and support. Basic systems to identify, report on and respond to protection issues were piloted, and almost 400 frontline staff received protection training.

Capacity: An Emergency Coordination Unit and PRS Protection Unit were established to oversee the Syria crisis programming, assess the humanitarian and protection needs of PRS and develop new systems and approaches to respond to the needs. A multisectoral needs assessment is being conducted to identify critical needs and a targeting framework is being developed. Information management has been strengthened with improvements to the registration systems and a new database to manage protection cases and monitor service provision. Contingency planning has been conducted and 16 staff participated in Hazardous Environment Awareness Training.

Funding: UNRWA utilized 95 per cent of the US$ 4.6 million received for the Syria response in Jordan in 2013 from the UK, US, OCHA, Switzerland, European Union (EU), Japan, Kuwait and New Zealand and OCHA/CERF.


Security Summary


Damascus / Rif Damascus:

In the East: Intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling throughout the period around Jobar, Qaboun and the adjacent area, Eastern Ghouta. Qaboun became relatively calm from the middle of the period and Barzeh remained relatively calm as in the previous report. This represents a slight reduction in hostilities. All UNRWA facilities remain closed in the areas due to hostilities except two schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.

In the South: Sporadic clashes and shelling continued around the camps of Yarmouk, Douma and Qabr Essit, and there were reports of an airstrike on 16 January inside Yarmouk, allegedly killing at least 10 PR. This represents a decrease from previous weeks except for the airstrike on Yarmouk. Ramadan continued to be relatively calm, as in previous weeks. Sbeineh remained relatively calm except for clashes in nearby areas as in previous weeks.

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. Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in areas around Yarmouk with an airstrike inside the camp on 16 January. There were 15 reported PR conflict-related deaths, including from shelling, the airstrike and snipers. There are continuing unconfirmed social media reports of further PR having died to malnutrition and lack of access to medical services. This is a decrease from the previous report.

Sporadic to intermittent clashes and shelling continued in the southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh at slightly increased levels from previous weeks until the end of the period where hostilities dropped significantly. Hostilities were more intermittent in areas surrounding and at times within Khan Eshieh, including a shell reportedly impacting in the camp. Two PR were reportedly killed in the area as a result of shelling, including one PR child, although this is a reduction from previous weeks. The main roads to the areas remain cut off or blocked by the security forces.

Aleppo: Sporadic, intermittent and sometimes intensive shelling throughout the period with airstrikes reported near the end of the period although this was a reduction on previous weeks. An UNRWA vehicle burgled and possible rocket impacts were reported near the UNRWA area office, which nevertheless remained open throughout the period. Two staff members were also detained in the period. Ein El Tal: No direct contact was possible with anyone in the camp but clashes were reported in the vicinity of the camp, and allegedly clashes between opposition groups. 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: Relatively calm for most of the reporting period except for sporadic shelling in the vicinity of the camp one day, with a number of shells impacting in the camp, injuring one PR. This is the same levels as previous weeks.

Dera’a: Mortar rounds and shells impacted in the camp on a number of days, and sporadic shelling in the camp reportedly killed two PR. Airstrikes were reported in the camp on two days late in the reporting period, reportedly killing two PR. This is a decrease from previous weeks. Mzerieb was relatively calm except for one shell and two mortar impacts in the village followed by sporadic shelling for days. No casualties were reported, but this is an increase from previous reports. Jillien remained relatively calm for most of the reporting period, with all facilities operational, as in previous reports.

Homs: Varying intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling continued in Homs city, although a reduction from previous weeks. Homs camp remained mostly relatively calm except for one mortar impact inside the camp but without related casualties. Hama: The camp remained relatively calm in most of the period with all facilities operational, as in previous weeks. Latakia: Relatively calm with all facilities operational as in previous weeks.

Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 22 January 2014, showing variation (in brackets) from last update, Issue 67






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)





Damascus (Mezzeh)





Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)





Damascus (Ramadan Camp)





Damascus (Dummar)





Damascus (Rukn Eddin)





Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)


























The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria did not change from the previous report, Issue 67.

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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