Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 70)

24 February 2014
Distribution of bedding kits to PRS

Issue 70 (4 – 17 February 2014)



Food distributions

In the reporting period, UNRWA delivered and distributed 2,144 food parcels to Palestine refugees (PR) in Yarmouk, facilitated by authorities on the ground: 810 food parcels on 4 February, 645 on 5 February, 500 on 6 February and 189 on 7 February. A further 280 were distributed on 19 February, for a total of 6,808 food parcels distributed to PR families since 18 January, when UNRWA first gained access to the area. Access was suspended from 8 February due to hostilities in the area and ongoing negotiations between the different actors.

On 4 February, 10,000 polio vaccines were transferred to Yarmouk via the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and vaccination of children in the camp is now underway.

UNRWA is working with the authorities to try to reach as many people as possible and continues to call on all parties to take immediate steps to bring about an environment that allows secure, substantial and permanent humanitarian access in Yarmouk and elsewhere. The limited access so far has suggested that most civilians remaining in Yarmouk have very great and desperate humanitarian needs.

The World Health Organization (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 and medication. UNRWA appeals to all sides to allow these materials to be delivered into Yarmouk.




A reported but unconfirmed 8 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, 11,105 PR from Syria (PRS) have registered with UNRWA, as have 51,800 in Lebanon. 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, 22 are currently detained or reported missing and 22 injured. Twenty-two UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and remain unaccounted for. In this period, two staff members were detained in Damascus, one temporarily. Four staff members and 40 PR students were injured in an airstrike on an UNRWA school in Mzerieb, see

  • A small number of PR protested at the UNRWA office in Aleppo, as they were reportedly not on food-distribution lists. A violent argument was reported between IDPs in an UNRWA temporary collective shelter in Damascus, and a PR assaulted a volunteer with a knife in another UNRWA facility.
  • Hostilities increased slightly from the previous report in areas of Damascus. Hostilities continue in Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh. Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in areas surrounding Yarmouk, Qabr Essit and Sbeineh. An unconfirmed 8 PR were reportedly killed as a result: 3 in Yarmouk, 3 in Khan Eshieh and 2 near Dera’a, a slight increase from the previous report.  
  • YARMOUK AND SBEINEH CAMPS All access points remained sealed. Malnutrition is widespread, and, along with lack of health care, is contributing to a rising number of deaths. 
  • All area offices and the Syria field office in Damascus remained operational, with most staff attending.



UNRWA is sheltering 7,965 displaced PR and Syrians in 18 Agency facilities in Syria, showing little change (-1) from the previous report. Of these, 84 per cent (6,691) are PR (see table 1). A further 3,864 PR are being sheltered in 16 non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia, a slight increase (+12) from the previous report.


2. Humanitarian Response



Over 46,400 PR children are enrolled with UNRWA. They attend 42 regular UNRWA schools and 37 government schools the Ministry of Education (MoE) agreed UNRWA can use in the afternoon where Agency schools are damaged or are serving as shelters. UNRWA is undertaking essential maintenance works in these and UNRWA schools. 

Forty-two of 118 UNRWA schools are operational, while 68 are closed due to damage or insecurity and  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 1,900 UNRWA teachers are working, as are 30 psychosocial counsellors. Self-learning materials are being prepared in coordination with MoE. 

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, community support: 1,125 PR students are receiving psychosocial support, first-aid training, life skills and extracurricular activities in Damascus, with preparations under way 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, and 1,939 PR are undertaking courses in English, French, computer skills, literacy and numeracy in Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia. 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 Damascus, 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 one in Aleppo.  

Medical supplies and hospitalization: Drug supplies were distributed to the north, south and Damascus areas, sufficient to last until the end of May 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 fourth round of vaccination campaign for polio (0-5 years) and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) (1-15 years) finished on 6 February, with a total 14,386 PR children vaccinated.

An increase in the prevalence of psychosocial trauma, 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 families have received so far. Cash distributions were planned for January and February for over 28,000 second- and third-round absentees in Damascus, over 13,000 third-round absentees in the north, nearly 12,000 in southern Syria and 142 displaced families from Yarmouk.

Food and NFI distributions: 6 distribution centres are operational in Damascus. NFIs distributed in the period included: over 140,000 portions of canned food and over 31,000 portions of other food staples, over 8,900 food baskets, over 5,200 hygiene materials for women, over 1,000 mattresses, over 1,700 diapers and baby kits and over 1,400 hygiene kits.

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 are security upgrades of facilities and upgrading of sewerage systems in six camps.   

Water: Work is being conducted on the well in Neirab. Water-supply pipes are being provided to temporary collective shelters. Safe drinking water is being provided to temporary collective shelters, camps and gatherings. 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 is 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 it, as was 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 – valued at SYP 21.01 million (US$ 146,208). This brings the total outreach during 2013 to 3,392 loans worth SYP 132.02 million (US$ 918,722), 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, valued at 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 collected. During 2013, women accounted for 36 per cent of clients, but due to the situation in Yarmouk, outreach there 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 went to PR in Yarmouk; and 4 per cent went to PR 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 16 February 2014

Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria cumulative since March 2011 as of 16 February 2014

Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013/14, by location and type, as of 16 February 2014

Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013-14 by location and type as of 16 February 2014



51,800 PRS registered with UNRWA in Lebanon

In Lebanon, 31 per cent of PRS are in Saida, 18 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: 7,400 PRS children are attending UNRWA schools: 89 per cent attend special classes for PRS and 11 per cent are integrated in regular UNRWA classes for PR in Lebanon. UNRWA continues to encourage parents to enrol their children. Additional classrooms have been constructed in two camps, more than 400 additional staff have been recruited and furniture and IT equipment is being distributed to all 19 PRS school centres. A plan for psychosocial and recreational activities in the academic year and summer vacation is being prepared.

Health: UNRWA covers the cost of primary health and secondary care services for PRS. including medical consultations and free medications. through its 27 health centres located throughout the country. UNRWA contributes towards tertiary hospitalization for emergency and life-threatening conditions, and covers full emergency-room services at Palestine Red Crescent Society hospitals. UNRWA has purchased vital medicines for acute and chronic conditions and recruited additional staff to support primary health care throughout Lebanon. PRS suffering from critical health conditions are further supported through the CARE programme, which provides additional support to cover medical bills.

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 over 14,126 families (94 per cent of recorded PRS families) from 5 December, comprising cash for adult and children’s clothing and one month’s fuel allowance. Most assistance was distributed by crediting ATM cards issued to PRS in autumn 2013, except for separated or unaccompanied minors supported directly through visits and payments.

Bedding kits were distributed in the Bekaa area to 1,720 families in December, and in January, bedding kits were distributed to 50 families living above 500 metres in Aley and to 69 families living above 500 metres in Nabatiyeh.

Distribution of bedding kits to PRS
Distribution of bedding kits to PRS

Regular distributions for housing and food assistance took place in December for 14,039 PRS families across Lebanon.

A joint UNRWA–WFP needs assessment has been completed, and the final report will be shared with donors soon.

Shelter: During January and February UNRWA completed shelter rehabilitation works in collective centres for PRS in Ein El Hilweh and Burj Shemali camps, benefiting 15 families. Additional shelter rehabilitation has been approved for four families in Ein El Hilweh.  As over 50 per cent of PRS reside in camps, a strain has been placed on the already fragile environmental-health infrastructure, including existing water and sewerage infrastructure and management. In response, UNRWA is upgrading the existing infrastructure systems in the camps through the provision of additional water sources and carrying out necessary repairs and rehabilitation to sewerage and drainage systems. Some work is being done through conditional cash subsidies to beneficiaries to carry out simple maintenance works as part of the Agency’s self-help approach, with technical support and supervision from UNRWA. To address the considerable increase in solid-waste needs, UNRWA has upgraded its operational management capacity through hiring additional sanitation staff, providing additional solid waste equipment and refurbishing trucks and compactors to ensure operations continue uninterrupted.

Protection: UNRWA continues to monitor and offer advice and assistance to PRS crossing at the border and 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.  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. 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.

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 Lebanese PR, indicating this is exacerbated by conflict and displacement. Six community-based support groups for PRS and PRL women, facilitated by a specialist, have been established in three refugee camps in the Tyre area. They are a forum to represent women’s interests, help identify and protect those most vulnerable and serve as a platform for community outreach where UNRWA can disseminate protection messages and inform PRS of services available.

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




11,105 PRS are 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. A large number live in abject poverty, and their precarious legal status creates difficulties for civil processes, access to services and employment. In 2013, 68 per cent were registered PR 52 per cent were female and 48 per cent under the age of 18. Women and children comprised 75 per cent of PRS.

Education: Admission to the 173 UNRWA schools across Jordan is open to PRS and Syrian IDP children residing in ten official and three unofficial PR camps. UNRWA schools re-opened for the new semester on 9 February and moved to a five-day from a six-day school week. UNRWA schools have enrolled 2,003 PRS and Syrian children, with 169 additional children, 52 PRS and 117 Syrians, enrolling for this semester.  Emergency funding to support the schooling of new Syrian children and to hire extra teachers needed to form new classes has not yet been secured. UNRWA is planning a review of the education in emergencies programme and targeted learning, psychosocial and recreational support for children from Syria in and out of UNRWA schools. 

Relief: UNRWA transitioned to a ’cash only’ approach and shifted to ATM cash transfers for cash, food and NFI assistance, replacing physical distributions, which ended in September 2013. Winterization support could not be provided due to lack of funding, but emergency grants were provided to 13 PRS families in January who faced severe shocks.

Health: UNRWA continues to provide free primary, emergency and life-saving health care to PRS in all 24 UNRWA clinics across Jordan, and referrals with full coverage to government hospitals. PRS made 1,366 visits for primary care in UNRWA clinics and the JHAS clinic in Cyber City in January; 112 PRS were admitted to hospital for life-saving care. Funding for this has been advanced, as funding has not yet been received.

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 about incidents of denied entry and forcible return of humanitarian cases. The protection of PRS remains a priority and has been mainstreamed in all aspects of the UNRWA response.

With funding from UK Aid, ECHO and Kuwait, UNRWA has rolled out a new case-management system to support referrals and interventions. Since its launch in September 2013, 262 cases have been recorded and managed. A single case can involve multiple protection issues and needs, and UNRWA also monitors PRS who fit certain vulnerability profiles, such as unaccompanied or separated minors. Referrals were made in 90 per cent of cases - internally for relief, health or education services, and externally for psychosocial support, disability support and legal services. Gender-based violence (GBV) and child protection cases especially were referred to specialized NGOs through established inter-agency referral pathways. Ongoing training for frontline staff and deployment of specialized protection staff are required to support the protection prorgamme to expand and institutionalize the protection capacity. 

Capacity: A multi-sector needs assessment and qualitative research on the protection needs of PRS are being completed to identify critical needs, and a targeting framework is being developed.

Funding: The UNRWA 2014 appeal for PRS in Jordan, of US$ 14.5 million, is 15 per cent funded so far. However, education and health needs are not funded yet, and cash distributions are funded only until March 2014.   


Security summary


Damascus / Rif Damascus:

East: Varying intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling continued in Jobar and the adjacent area of Eastern Ghouta, a slight increase from the previous week. Qaboun and Barzeh remained relatively calm, as in the previous report, continuing a reduction in hostilities from at least over the last 8 months. However, all UNRWA facilities remain closed in the areas due to hostilities and/or access restrictions, except for two schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.  

South: Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in areas surrounding Yarmouk and inside the area early in the period, resulting in the suspension of food distributions. The area remained relatively calm for the remainder of the period, and it is reported a number of armed opposition groups (AOGs) withdrew from the area following negotiations. Sporadic clashes and shelling were reported in areas surrounding but not within Qabr Essit and Sbeineh, remaining at the levels of the previous report. Ramadan remained relatively calm, as in previous weeks. Mostly 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 into Yarmouk. 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 some reportedly withdrew from Yarmouk in the period. An unconfirmed three PR were killed in Yarmouk as a result of gun shots and medical conditions, which is the same level as the last report. There are continuing unconfirmed social-media reports of PR dying due to malnutrition and lack of services.

Southwest: Intermittent hostilities continued in Darayya, reportedly including some airstrikes, but hostilities dropped significantly in Moadhamiyeh, which became calm and accessible. Khan Eshieh was relatively calm at the beginning of the period, followed by sporadic shelling in areas surrounding but not within the camp, intensifying at the end of the period with barrel bombs reported in surrounding areas. Three PR were reportedly killed near the camp as a result of hostilities. Hostilities remained at the same levels as previous weeks.

Aleppo: Intensive shelling reported early in the period, reportedly with rocket or mortar impacts near the UNRWA area office and next to an UNRWA school, both of which had to be temporarily closed. Hostilities continued at sporadic, intensive and intermittent levels for the remainder of the period, which is a slight increase on previous weeks. Ein El Tal: No direct contact was possible with anyone in the camp as in previous weeks. The camp presumably remains occupied by armed opposition groups and the number of PR in the camp presumably remains very low, with rumours that a small number of PR may have returned to the camp. Neirab camp: Relatively calm for all of the reporting period, with all facilities operational, representing a decrease from previous weeks.   

Dera’a: Sporadic clashes were reported in the vicinity of the camp early in the period, followed by intermittent and then intensive hostilities, reportedly including airstrikes, heavy clashes and shelling. The camp remained relatively calm, although the electricity was off for nearly a week and two PR were reportedly killed as a result of the hostilities. This shows an increase from previous weeks. Mzerieb: Relatively calm, followed by sporadic shelling, including airstrikes in surrounding areas. A rocket impacted in the immediate vicinity of an UNRWA school, causing minor injuries to 3 staff and around 40 PR students, with installations temporarily closed as a result. Sporadic shelling in the vicinity of the village continued for the remainder of the period, representing an increase from previous weeks. Jillien remained calm for the reporting period, a reduction from previous weeks.

Homs: Intensive clashes and shelling early in the period reduced to intermittent and then sporadic, with UN operations ongoing and a reported airstrike at the end of the period. This remains at the levels of previous weeks. Homs camp remained mostly relatively calm, although vehicle access to the camp remains restricted. The security forces conducted a house-to-house search of the camp but without incident. Hama: The camp remained relatively calm, with all facilities operational, as in previous weeks. 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 11 February 2014, showing variation (in brackets) from last update, Issue 69   






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)





Damascus (Mezzeh)





Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)





Damascus (Ramadan Camp)





Damascus (Dummar)


152 (-2)

259 (+1)

576 (-1)

Damascus (Rukn Eddin)





Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)






















2,010 (-2)

3,740 (+1)

7,965 (-1)


The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria changed only slightly (-1) from the previous report, Issue 69.

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

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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