Syria Crisis Response Update (issue no 71)

09 March 2014
UNRWA humanitarian distribution, Yarmouk Camp, Damascus. 2014

UNRWA humanitarian distribution, Yarmouk Camp, Damascus. 2014


Issue 71 (18 February – 3 March 2014)


Food distributions

UNRWA has distributed 7,708 food parcels to Palestine refugees (PR) in Yarmouk since 18 January, facilitated by authorities on the ground. In this period 1,180 food parcels were distributed but access has been suspended since 28 February due to hostilities and on-going negotiations between the parties inside Yarmouk.

UNRWA is working with the authorities to try to reach as many people as possible and continues to call on all parties immediately to take steps to bring about an environment which 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 large and desperate humanitarian needs.

UNRWA Commissioner General visited Yarmouk on 24 February

The Commissioner General firmly reiterated the need for unhindered humanitarian access. He was shocked by the condition of the PR he spoke to and the extent of war damage done to homes stating “I am deeply disturbed and shaken by what I observed today. The Palestine refugees with whom I spoke were traumatized by what they have lived through, and many were in evident need of immediate support, particularly food and medical treatment. What I have seen and heard today underlines the timeliness of the UN Security Council resolution 2139 on Humanitarian Access and the need for all sides to implement the resolution without fail.

See /crisis-in-yarmouk

/galleries/videos/distribution-humanitarian-assistance-yarmouk and




A reported but unconfirmed 14 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed in the last 2 weeks as a result of the conflict. UNRWA estimates over 50% of registered PR are displaced in Syria or in neighbouring countries.

Approximately 270,000 PR are displaced in Syria: over 200,000 in Damascus, around 6,600 in Aleppo, 4,500 in Latakia, 3,050 in Hama, 6,450 in Homs and 13,100 in Dera’a. 11,438 PR from Syria (PRS) have registered with UNRWA in Jordan and 52,788 in Lebanon. Reports of 6,000 PRS in Egypt, 1,100 in Libya, 1,000 in Gaza and numbers in Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. 


1. Situation summary

  • An explosive struck near an UNRWA school in Mzerieb on 18 February killing 18 including 5 PR school children and 1 UNRWA staff member. At least 20 others were injured including two staff members and 8 PR school children, two of whom have lost limbs as a result. See /newsroom/official-statements/unrwa%E2%80%99s-commissioner-general-deplores-killing-18-including-five
  • Despite considerable challenges UNRWA is continuing to deliver emergency relief, health and education services to PR across Syria.
  • So far in the conflict 12 staff members have been killed, 25 are currently detained or reported missing and 24 have been injured. 22 UNRWA vehicles have been stolen and not accounted for. In the period two staff members were killed. A school principle and their family were reportedly killed in Damascus by an armed group in their house and a nurse was killed in Mzerieb. A staff member was detained at a checkpoint in Dera’a and two in Damascus, a distribution supervisor and sanitation labourer. Another staff member was detained temporarily and then released.
  • Hostilities mostly continued at the same levels as the previous report in areas of Damascus. Hostilities continue in Darayya but decreased in Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh. Sporadic clashes and shelling continued in Jobar and Douma and in areas surrounding Qabr Essit and Sbeineh. Yarmouk was relatively calm until 28 February when sporadic clashes were again reported in the camp, halting food parcel distributions. An unconfirmed 14 PR were reportedly killed as a result: 8 in Yarmouk and 6 in Mzerieb, an increase from the previous report.  
  • YARMOUK AND SBEINEH CAMPS All access points remained sealed. Malnutrition is wide-spread, which along with lack of health care, is contributing to a rising number of deaths. 
  • All area offices and Syria Field Office in Damascus operational all week with most staff attending.


UNRWA is sheltering 7,863 displaced PR and Syrians in 18 Agency facilities in Syria, a decrease of 102 from the previous report. Of these, 84%, 6,605 are PR (see table 1). A further 3,996 PR are being sheltered in 16 non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia, an increase of 132 from the previous report.

2. Humanitarian Response



Over 41,500 PR children are enrolled with UNRWA. They attend 38 regular UNRWA schools and 39 governmental schools the Ministry of Education (MoE) agreed UNRWA can use in the afternoon where UNRWA schools are damaged or are shelters. UNRWA is undertaking essential maintenance works in these and UNRWA schools. 

42 out of 118 UNRWA schools are operational. 68 are closed due to damage or insecurity and 8 school premises with 16 schools are operating as temporary collective shelters for PR and displaced Syrians. 8 schools are operating both as schools and temporary collective shelters. Over 1,870 UNRWA teachers are working and 44 psychosocial counsellors. Self-learning materials are being prepared for in coordination with MoE. 

Over 5,016 ninth grade students 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.

Engaging Youth

Youth development, community support: 1,125 PR students are receiving psychosocial support, first aid training, life skills and extra-curricular 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. 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. 444 young PR are also receiving career guidance in Damascus, Dera’a, Homs and Latakia.


Health centres and points: 9 health centres are operational in Damascus; and 1 each in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. 8 health points are operational in Damascus and 1 in Aleppo.  

Medical supplies and hospitalisation: drug supplies were distributed to the north, south and Damascus areas enough to cover until end 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: surveillance for infectious diseases is ongoing, especially for influenza-like illnesses.

Increase in the prevalence of psycho-social trauma, stress/anxiety disorders is reported.

Emergency Relief

Cash assistance: The 3rd round distribution is almost complete with 84,287 PR families in Damascus referred to outlets to receive emergency cash assistance and 66,605 families receiving 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 for 142 displaced families from Yarmouk.

Food and NFI distributions: 6 distribution centres are operational in Damascus. NFIs distributed from 18-22 February included: nearly 65,000 portions of canned food, over 17,600 blankets, nearly 2,900 portions of soap, over 2,400 baby diapers and over 1,500 food baskets.  

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. Upgrading of sewage systems in six camps is being undertaken.

Water: Safe drinking water is being provided to temporary collective shelters, camps and gatherings.

Hygiene: Chlorine tablets and other hygiene equipment is being provided for camps and temporary collective shelters. Winterization: activities for temporary shelters are in progress.

Maintenance: Works are being undertaken to install an electrical generator in a distribution centre. Regular maintenance of 200 UNRWA facilities and temporary collective shelters is being undertaken and security upgrades of facilities.


The programme financed 484 microfinance loans in January 2014 valued at SYP 20.92 million (147 in Tartous, 142 in Latakia, 80 in Sweyda and 115 in Damascus). This brings the total number of active loans to 3,302 with an outstanding balance of SYP 88.87 million. As the programme fully staffs its branch offices in Tartous, Latakia and Sweyda it plans to triple its current outreach to around 1,350 loans per month by April 2014 valued at around SYP 58.34 million each month. The portfolio at risk remains very low at just 0.33%, the lowest of any field.

The programme is currently following up a portfolio of 6,758 bad debts, of which 109 were closed in January and SYP 1.92 million collected on the outstanding balance of SYP 116.66 million.

The second in a series of quarterly reports on socioeconomic conditions in Syria, funded by the EU is published online at /resources/reports/war-development-socioeconomic-monitoring-report-syria


Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria cumulative since March 2011 as of 22 February 2014

Graph 1: UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria cumulative since March 2011 as of 22 February 2014

Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013-14 by location and type as of 22 February 2014Graph 2: UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013-14 by location and type as of 22 February 2014



52,788 PRS registered with UNRWA in Lebanon

31% are in Saida, 18% in Tyre, 18% in central Lebanon, 17% in Beqaa and 16% in northern Lebanon. 51% live in UNRWA camps and the rest live in private rented accommodation or informal gatherings.  

Education: 7,401 PRS children are attending UNRWA schools: 85% attend special classes for PRS and 15% are integrated in UNRWAs regular classes for PR in Lebanon. UNRWA continues to encourage parents to enrol their children.  More than 410 additional staff have been recruited and UNRWA will conduct psychosocial support and recreational activities through the academic year and summer vacation for PRS students.

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 hospitalisation for emergency and life-threatening conditions, and overs full emergency room services at Palestine Red Crescent Society hospitals. PRS 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 in December 2013 and concluded in February 2014 to provide additional support to PRS families during the cold winter months. In February in the final round of assistance UNRWA provided 14,346 PRS families with housing assistance and 14,367 PRS families throughout Lebanon with food assistance. This comprised a stove per family blanket per person, cash for adult and children’s clothing and three to five months fuel allowance based on location and altitude. Most assistance was distributed by crediting ATM cards issued to PRS in autumn 2013 except separated or unaccompanied minors supported directly through visits and payments.

Regular distributions for housing and food assistance took place in December for 14,039 PRS families across Lebanon and in February for 14,347 PRS families.

As over 50% of PRS reside in UNRWAs camps this is placing strain on the already fragile environmental health infrastructure including camps 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 of UNRWA. To accompany this UNRWA has started an environmental health promotion programme in all 12 camps. The current focus is on water conservation in the months with no rainfall.

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. 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.

UNRWA held a psychosocial coordination meeting for local and international NGOs providing assistance to PRS. UNRWA has developed a 3 point psychosocial support strategy for PRS of: ensuring professional and specialized staff are in the field, mainstreaming psychosocial support in UNRWAs services and creating safe spaces for PRS. UNRWA is working with 17 partners to enhance coordination in the delivery of psychosocial support for PRS in Lebanon.

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



11,438 PRS are recorded with UNRWA in Jordan

They receive relief, education, health and protection services. An average 633 new PRS were registered per month in 2013. 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% were registered PR. 52% were female, 48% under the age of 18 and women and children comprised 75% of PRS.

Education: Admission is open to UNRWAs 173 schools across Jordan to PRS and Syrian IDP children residing in 10 official and 3 unofficial PR camps. UNRWA schools re-opened for the new semester on 9 February and moved from a 6 day school week to a 5-day school week. 2,003 PRS and Syrian children are enrolled in UNRWA schools with 169 additional children, 52 PRS and 117 Syrians, enrolling for this semester.  New desks and other furniture have been received to accommodate the children.

Relief: UNRWA transitioned to a “cash only” approach will shift to ATM cash transfer for cash, food and NFI assistance. UNRWA prioritized 1,300 PRS newcomers for arrival grants in January-February with support from UK. A large distribution for all PRS is planned for March with funding from UK, Belgium and Help Syria Through the Winter. Winterization assistance could not be provided due to lack of funding but emergency grants were provided to 13 PRS families in January who face severe shocks. 3,000 newcomers are scheduled to receive bedding, hygiene kits and kitchen sets in the coming weeks.

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 1,366 visits for primary care in UNRWA clinics and JHAS clinic in Cyber city in January and 112 PRS were admitted to hospital for lifesaving care.

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 UNRWA’s response.

UNRWA rolled out a new case management system to support referrals and interventions. 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% of cases, internally for relief, health or education services and externally for psychosocial support, disability support and legal services. Ongoing training for front-line staff and deployment of specialized protection staff is required to support the protection prorgamme 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: UNRWAs 2014 appeal for PRS in Jordan of USD 14.5 million is just over 20% funded so far with contributions/ pledges from US, UK, Belgium, ECHO and Help Syria Through the Winter.

Security summary


Damascus / Rif Damascus:

East: Varying intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling continued in Jobar and the adjacent area Eastern Ghouta, the same levels as previous weeks. 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 2 schools housing IDPs in Qaboun.  

South: Relatively calm at the beginning of the period in and around Yarmouk enabling the distribution of food parcels for five days in the period. However, sporadic clashes were reported again within Yarmouk and in surrounding areas from 28 February causing the suspension of food parcel distributions. It was reported that some armed opposition groups may have moved back into the camp. Qabr Essit camp and the surrounding areas were mostly calm throughout the period for the first time in months showing a reduction on previous reports. Mostly sporadic and sometimes intermittent/intensive clashes and shelling was reported in areas surrounding but not within Sbeineh, a slight increase on the previous report. Ramadan remained relatively calm as in previous weeks. Mostly sporadic and sometimes intermittent shelling continued throughout in Douma showing a slight increase on 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% of Yarmouk residents remain and less than 5% in Sbeineh with armed opposition elements present in both although some reportedly withdrew from Yarmouk in the period. An unconfirmed 8 PR were killed in Yarmouk as a result of medical conditions, shelling and detention, nearly triple that of the previous. 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 remained significantly reduced in Moadhamiyeh which remained calm and accessible. Khan Eshieh was relatively calm but with sporadic clashes and shelling in surrounding areas with unconfirmed reports of airstrikes. This was a slight reduction on the previous report and no PR were reported killed as a result.

Aleppo: sporadic and intensive shelling reported early in the period subsiding to sporadic for the remainder of the period, a slight decrease on previous weeks. The area office and facilities remained operational as usual. 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 a small number of PR may have returned to the camp. Neirab camp remained relatively calm for all of the reporting period with all facilities operational, similar to previous weeks.

Dera’a: Communications were down for a number of days in the period. Sporadic clashes and shelling were reported throughout the period accompanied with airstrikes early in the period, nevertheless a reduction on the previous weeks with no PR killed. The camp remained calm with all facilities operational. 

Mzerieb: Sporadic shelling and airstrikes in and around the village early in the period. An explosive struck near an UNRWA school on 18 February killing 18 including 5 PR school children and 1 UNRWA staff member. At least 20 others were injured including 2 staff members and 8 PR school children, two of whom lost limbs as a result. Mzerieb remained calm for the remainder of the period. This was an increase on previous weeks and followed a rocket impact in another UNRWA school in Mzerieb only 8 days previously. Jillien remained calm for the reporting period as in previous weeks.

Homs: sporadic clashes and shelling early in the period reportedly including an airstrike subsiding to sporadic for the remainder of the period with UN operations ongoing in the old city, similar to previous reports. Homs camp remained relatively calm with all facilities operational as in previous weeks. Hama camp remained relatively calm with all facilities operational as in previous weeks. Latakia remained calm with all facilities operational as in previous weeks.

Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 23 February 2014 showing variation (in brackets) with last update Issue 70






Damascus Training Centre  (DTC)

347 (+6)

335 (-30)

514 (+3)

1196 (-21)

Damascus (Jaramana Camp)

512 (+1)



1926 (+1)

Damascus (Mezzeh)

160 (-29)

181 (+25)

253 (+4)


Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)



89 (+2)

221 (+2)

Damascus (Ramadan Camp)

   255 (-75)

295 (+12)

581 (-47)

1131 (-110)

Damascus (Dummar)

147 (-18)

167 (+15)


573 (-3)

Damascus (Rukn Eddin)

148 (-10)

161 (+16)

256 (+12)

565 (+18)

Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)

24 (-7)

32 (+9)

52 (+9)

108 (+11)


6 (-4)

6 (+1)

9 (+3)













2079 (-136)

2058 (+48)

3726 (-14)

7863 (-102)

The number of displaced PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities in Syria decreased from the previous report Issue 70 by 102. This included a decrease in female IDPs of 136. The largest decrease was in Ramadan camp (-110) followed by the DTC (-21). Small increases were seen in Rukn Eddin (+18), Al Qaboun (+11) and Khan Eshieh (+2), all in Damascus.

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

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