Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 69)

07 February 2014
Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 69)

Issue 69 (21 January – 3 February 2014)


Food distributions

In the reporting period, UNRWA delivered and distributed 4,272 food parcels to Palestine refugees (PR) in Yarmouk, facilitated by authorities on the ground. Twenty-six food parcels were distributed on 21 January; 1,026 on 30 January; 980 on 31 January; 850 on 1 February; 715 on 2 February and 675 on 3 February. This brings the total to 4,384 food parcels distributed since UNRWA gained access to the area on 18 January.

Family members waiting for the return of relatives allowed to go to the distribution area,
Yarmouk, 1 February 2014.

Three UNRWA staff members were reportedly allowed to leave the area, although one was reportedly detained while escorting their elderly mother out. Hundreds of residents have reportedly been allowed to leave to seek medical assistance, mostly the elderly, infirm, women and children, although UNRWA is unable to verify these reports.

UNRWA is working with the authorities to try to reach as many people as possible. UNRWA appeals to all sides to allow the sustained and expanded access to the area necessary to deliver continuous and uninterrupted humanitarian aid to Yarmouk for the long term. The limited access so far has suggested that most civilians remaining in Yarmouk have very large and desperate humanitarian needs.

Each food parcel contains around 56kg of foodstuffs, from lentils and sugar to cooking oil and luncheon meat, intended to feed four to eight people for 10 days.

Food parcel being distributed in Yarmouk, 1 February 2014.


WHO has prepared a shipment of medical supplies to address the urgent health needs in Yarmouk, 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. UNRWA appeals to all sides to allow these materials to be delivered into Yarmouk.


A reported but unconfirmed 6 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 the number has reached 51,713. Reports cite 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.
  • Since the beginning of the conflict, 10 staff members have been killed, 21 are currently detained or reported missing and 17 injured. Twenty-two UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and not accounted for. Two UNRWA staff members were released from detention in this period, but one staff member was detained, reportedly while accompanying their elderly mother out of Yarmouk.
  • A number of PR reportedly broke in to an UNRWA facility inside Yarmouk early in the period in protest against insufficient quantities of relief assistance. Aggressive behaviour was reported from a PR in Homs on two successive days. PR held two demonstrations in Khan Eshieh demanding UNRWA re-establish its health services in the camp, and as a result UNRWA reopened its health centre in the camp. Two accidental fires broke out in temporary collective shelters, but without casualties.
  • Most areas of Damascus saw a decrease in hostilities, with reports of local agreements/ arrangements, except Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh. Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in areas surrounding Yarmouk, Qabr Essit and Sbeineh. An unconfirmed 6 PR were reportedly killed as a result, 4 in Yarmouk and 2 in Dera’a, the lowest reported since late October.
  • YARMOUK AND SBEINEH CAMPS All access points remained sealed. Malnutrition is widespread, which, along with the lack of health care, is contributing to a rising number of deaths.
  • All area offices and the Syria Field Office in Damascus were operational all week with most staff attending.


UNRWA is sheltering 7,966 displaced PR and Syrians in 18 Agency facilities in Syria, showing a slight change (+7) from the previous report. Of these, 84 per cent, 6,691 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 operating triple shifts. Over 26,000 attend 36 governmental schools that the Ministry of Education (MoE) agreed UNRWA can use in the afternoons where Agency schools are damaged or are shelters.

Of 118 UNRWA schools, 42 are operational. Sixty-eight are closed due to damage or insecurity, 8 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 in coordination with MoE and UNICEF.

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

Engaging Youth

Youth development and community support: 1,125 PR students are receiving psychosocial support, first-aid training and life skills and extracurricular activities in Damascus, with preparations to extend this further.

Vocational and continuing education: 1,376 PR 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. In Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia, 1,939 PR are undertaking courses in English, French, computer skills, literacy and numeracy. Preparations are under way to extend these further.

Business development: 34 young PR in Damascus are undertaking activities including start-up training and follow-up, with preparations ongoing to extend this to Homs. In Damscus, Dera’a, Homs and Latakia,  444 young PR are also receiving career guidance.


Health centres and points: 6 health centres are operational in Damascus, and 1 each in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. Eight health points are operational in Damascus, and 1 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 84,287 PR families in Damascus referred to outlets to receive emergency cash assistance; 66,605 have received it so far. Cash distributions will be completed in February 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. Cash distributions will also be completed for 204 displaced families from Yarmouk.

Food and NFI distributions: 6 distribution centres are operational in Damascus. NFIs distributed in the period include nearly 44,000 portions of canned food and over 4,800 blankets in Damascus, along with nearly 9,700 hygiene materials for women, over 7,400 food baskets, nearly 6,000 portions of soap and over 3,500 baby diapers in Damascus and Aleppo.


  • 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 purpose. 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, a new well has been dug 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 have been installed in five temporary collective shelters, and hot-water systems for showers and bathrooms are being installed in temporary collective shelters in the 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.


A ’day of happiness’ activity was conducted in Dera’a from 21 to 22 January 2014, offering psychosocial support for PR children who have been affected by the conflict. A seminar was held to raise awareness of different types of violence against people with disabilities and ways to address them, along with an open day to support people with disabilities. A training workshop was conducted for lawyers, social workers and case managers on international human rights, Syrian laws and current problems being faced in Syria.


The programme financed 554 microfinance loans in December 2013 – 138 in Tartous, 160 in Latakia, 121 in Sweyda and 135 in Damascus – at a total value of SYP 21.01 million (US$ 146,820). This brings the total outreach during 2013 to 3,392 loans worth SYP 132.02 million (US$ 922,055), 45 per cent of which were financed in the fourth quarter. The increase in outreach was largely driven by recently opened branch offices in Tartous, Latakia and Sweyda. The programme is planning to build the monthly loan disbursements to around 1,350 per month by April 2014, at a total value of around US$ 409,000. 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 which 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, while the figure reached 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 available online at

Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria, cumulative since March 2011, as of 26 January 2014

Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013/14 by location and type, as of 26 January 2014


51,713 PRS registered with UNRWA in Lebanon

Of PRS in the country, 31 per cent are in Saida, 19 per cent in Tyre, 18 per cent in central Lebanon, 17 per cent in Bekaa and 16 per cent in northern Lebanon. Over half – 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 regularly attend school and UNRWA continues to encourage parents to enrol their children. Additional classrooms have been constructed in two camps and more than 400 additional staff have been recruited. A plan for psychosocial and recreational activities in the academic year and summer vacation is being prepared. Works have also been undertaken to improve the educational facilities for PRS students.

Health: UNRWA is providing 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 a 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 included one blanket per person, a heater and fuel refill. UNRWA covered 76 per cent of PRS and partner agencies covered the remainder. Bedding kits were also distributed in the Bekaa 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 who were supported directly through visits and payments. A joint UNRWA–WFP needs assessment has been completed and the final report will be shared with donors soon.

Regular distributions for housing and food assistance also took place in 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 has been approved for 21 families.  As over 50 per cent of PRS reside in camps, a strain has been placed on the already fragile environmental-health infrastructure. During December, UNRWA continued to provide gas oil to all camps where PRS are concentrated and hygiene equipment. An environmental-health awareness campaign is being prepared with local NGOs, women’s and health centres and youth clubs.

Protection: UNRWA continues 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, as, since August 2013, a number of refugees from Syria, including PRS, have been denied entry into Lebanon. In coordination with other UN agencies in Lebanon, UNRWA 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. Currently, PRS who have exceeded a one-year stay in Lebanon must pay US$ 200 to leave. Legal status in Lebanon is critical for protection vis-à-vis the Lebanese authorities, as it ensures PRS can pass through checkpoints, including to and from camps, and complete civil registration processes. UNRWA continues to provide legal advice and assistance to PRS who do not possess a valid Lebanese visa.

An outreach project has been established in Bekaa to encourage PRS to register with UNRWA, and the protection team continues to conduct household assessments for unaccompanied and separated PRS minors to ensure they benefit from cash assistance; 178 have been identified so far. Vulnerable cases continue to be referred internally and to partner organizations providing services, including psychosocial support and mental health, and some to ICRC, for family tracing and reunification services.

SGBV: The number of PRS SGBV victims detected is low, but UNRWA has found the incidence of sexual violence is higher among the PRS population than among Lebanese PR, indicating it is exacerbated by conflict and displacement. Six community-based support groups for PRS and PRL women and girls have been established in three refugee camps in the Tyre area, facilitated by a specialist. They are a forum to represent women’s interests and help identify and protect those most vulnerable, and are a platform for community outreach where UNRWA can disseminate protection messages and inform PRS of services available.

PRS and Palestinian host-community support groups in Tyre, South Lebanon, April 2013

Funding: Lebanon’s appeal for 2014 is US$ 90.4 million.



10,912 PRS are recorded with UNRWA in Jordan

PRS in Jordan 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. Sixty-eight per cent are registered PR. Fifty-two per cent are female, 48 per cent are under the age of 18 and women and children comprise 75 per cent of PRS.

Education: Admission is open to the 173 UNRWA schools across Jordan to PRS and Syrian IDP children residing in ten official and three 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 of PRS is estimated at 58 per cent, lower than that of 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 transfers 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. Eighty per cent received 2 or more rounds, and new PRS were prioritized, while 1,017 PRS also received a one-off cash grant to address a specific shock or critical need.

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


Protection: Jordan revealed its policy of non-admission of Palestinians fleeing Syria in January 2013, which continues to compound the extreme vulnerability of those who seek safety in Jordan or have already entered the country. UNRWA is concerned and continues to document incidents of denied entry and forcible return of humanitarian cases, and continues to urge Jordan to grant temporary access and protection to Palestinians fleeing the violence in Syria. The protection of PRS remains a priority and has been mainstreamed in all aspects of the UNRWA response.

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 front-line staff received protection training. Hundreds of interventions have been conducted, but underreporting remains a significant challenge due to stigma, threat of retaliation, lack of awareness and difficulties accessing services. UNRWA is particularly concerned by the risks to unaccompanied/ separated children and is working with partners to enhance protection, including through the legal system.


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 multisector 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, New Zealand and OCHA/CERF.


Security summary


Damascus / Rif Damascus:

At the start of the period, greater Damascus witnessed a significant drop in the level of hostilities with reports and rumours of local agreements or arrangements. This continued in most areas except Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh, where hostilities increased again to the previous levels.

East: Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in Jobar and the adjacent area, Eastern Ghouta, but Qaboun and Barzeh remained relatively calm. This is a reduction in hostilities from the previous report and a lower level of hostilities than at least over the last eight months.  However, all UNRWA facilities remain closed in the areas due to hostilities and/or access restrictions except two schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.

South: Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in areas surrounding but not in Yarmouk, Qabr Essit and Sbeineh, a reduction from previous weeks. Ramadan remained relatively calm as in previous weeks. Sporadic shelling continued throughout in Douma, showing no change from previous weeks.

Yarmouk and Sbeineh remain sealed off, with access blocked by the security forces, except for limited food parcel deliveries from UNRWA allowed by the government. Less than 30 per cent of Yarmouk residents remain and less than 5 per cent in Sbeineh, with armed opposition elements present in both. Yarmouk remained relatively calm, which is a reduction from many months. An unconfirmed three PR were killed, allegedly by snipers, and one PR was found dead, but this is also a reduction from previous reports. There are continuing unconfirmed social-media reports of further PR dying due to malnutrition and lack of services.

Southwest: Hostilities reportedly dropped significantly at the beginning of the period in Darayya and Moadhamiyeh, although this increased to sporadic to intermittent hostilities early in the period and continued for the rest of the period, as in previous reports. Early in the period, sporadic hostilities continued in areas surrounding but not within Khan Eshieh, but this increased in the middle of the period with one shell impacting in the camp and causing casualties. Barrel bombs/ airstrikes were also reported at the end of the period in the immediate vicinity of the camp. Overall hostilities remained at the same levels as previous weeks, but the barrel bombs are a new feature.

Aleppo: Intermittent and sporadic shelling for most of the period increased to intensive shelling late in the period, although the UNRWA office remained open. This is a reduction from previous weeks. UNRWA received a delivery of relief items in Aleppo from Damascus and distributed them. Ein El Tal: No direct contact was possible with anyone in the camp, but it presumably remains occupied by armed opposition groups, and the number of PR presumably remains very low. Neirab: The camp remained relatively calm for most of the reporting period, with all facilities operational. Intensive shelling in the vicinity of the camp was reported on a couple of days, but this is a reduction from the previous weeks.

Dera’a:  A small number of shells impacted in the camp on three days, but there were no reports of casualties, and otherwise the camp remained relatively calm, a continuing decrease from previous weeks. Two PR reportedly died as a result of an earlier airstrike. Mzerieb: The area remained relatively calm except for reports of a possible vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in the village and sporadic shelling in the surrounding areas at the end of the period. Jillien remained relatively calm for most of the reporting period, except for sporadic shelling in surrounding areas at the end of the period. All facilities remained operational as in previous reports.

Homs: There were mostly intermittent and sometimes sporadic clashes and shelling throughout the period. This intensified mid-period with several mortar impacts and a VBIED reported, showing an increase from previous reports. Homs camp remained mostly relatively calm, although vehicle access to the camp remains restricted and two incidents were reported with a violent PR leading to temporary suspension of relief distributions. This is a reduction from the previous report. Hama: The camp remained relatively calm, with all facilities operational, as in previous weeks. Reports were received of two VBIEDs in Hama governorate and mortar impacts in Hama town. Latakia: Relatively calm with all facilities operational as in previous weeks.


Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 2 February 2014, showing variation (in brackets) with last update, Issue 68  






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)





Damascus (Mezzeh)





Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)





Damascus (Ramadan Camp)





Damascus (Dummar)

165 (+2)


258 (+3)

577 (+5)

Damascus (Rukn Eddin)



244 (+2)

547 (+2)

Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)





















2,215 (+2)


3,739 (+5)

7,966 (+7)


The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria changed only slightly (+7) from the previous report, Issue 68.

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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