Syria crisis situation update (Issue 37)

07 March 2013

08  March 2013
Damascus, Syria

Regional overview

The humanitarian situation in Syria is dire and continues to deteriorate rapidly forcing many Palestine refugees and Syrians into displacement and destitution. Armed clashes continue throughout Syria, particularly in Rif Damascus Governorate, Aleppo and Dera’a. With external flight options restricted, Palestine refugees in Syria remain a particularly vulnerable group. As the armed conflict has progressively escalated since the launch of UNRWA’s Syria Crisis Response 2013, the number of Palestine refugees in Syria in need of humanitarian assistance has risen to over 400,000 individuals. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria who have fled to Jordan has reached 4,569 individuals and approximately 32,000 refugees are in Lebanon.


  • Conflict continues throughout most of the country, with intense fighting reported around Aleppo airport, severely restricting access to Neirab camp. At least two refugees were killed as a result of hostilities in the area.
  • Hostilities also continued around eastern and southern Damascus / Rif Damascus Governorate, including in the vicinity of camps in Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Seyeda Zainab and Husseiniyah. Violence in these areas have led to the death this week of at least 16 refugees, including two refugees killed by hanging in Yarmouk.
  • An UNRWA area staff member is missing and was last seen returning from work to his home. The staff member’s father was killed when he went looking for his son.
  • An UNRWA school in Husseiniyah in the Damascus area was recently looted by unknown individuals.
  • On a more positive note, UNRWA organized distribution of food items to Palestine refugees who remain in Yarmouk. This was the first direct humanitarian activity in Yarmouk since early December 2012 and it is tentatively expected to be completed in a week. The achievement required cooperation with GAPAR and a federation of local Palestinian charities. The mediation of the Office of the Joint Special Representative (OJSR) was instrumental. 
  • Parts of Dera‘a town continue to see frequent clashes and shelling, at times in the immediate vicinity of our camp and the area office. To a lesser extent, hostilities also continue around Homs and Hama.
Despite the high risk of exposure to violence and restricted humanitarian access, since the start of the conflict in March 2011, UNRWA’s network of staff and humanitarian assets have succeeded in providing 28,652 refugee households with food parcels, 14,956 mattresses, 29,782 blankets, and 2,997 hygiene kits. Cash assistance has been provided to approximately 70,000 families including the latest distribution for the month of February that reached 14,806 families in Damascus and Aleppo.
Currently, there are some 12,000 IDPs sheltering in UNRWA-managed facilities in Syria, of which nearly 9,000 are in UNRWA buildings (e.g. schools and training centres) that are being used as make-shift emergency shelters. The IDPs are dependent on humanitarian assistance for their basic food, NFI and health needs. Almost half of them are children and there are 98 pregnant women, with 17 coming to full term. Among the displaced are 78 newborn babies and 74 elderly people. To date, 16 babies have been born at UNRWA schools being used as emergency shelter.
There are 63 UNRWA schools out of a total of 118 that are operational. To make up for some UNRWA schools that are inaccessible on account of their location in conflict zones, the Agency is utilizing government school buildings in relatively safe areas. By making these schools available during the afternoon shift, the Agency is salvaging learning opportunities for thousands of Palestine refugee children. However, as the conflict persists, children’s education is being constantly disrupted. UNRWA’s alternative education modalities programme is establishing a system of distance/self-learning and psycho-social support to ensure that children’s education can continue despite the trauma that they are experiencing as a direct result of the conflict.

UNRWA continues to provide emergency health care to vulnerable Palestine refugees through its health centres. Six out of 23 UNRWA health centres were operational this week. UNRWA has also established a number of “Health Points” in schools and other buildings accommodating displaced people. 

IDP numbers in UNRWA facilities as of 03 March**:

Damascus Training Centre
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
Damascus (Mezzeh)
Damascus (Khan Sheikh Camp)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Dummar)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
Damascus (Khan Dannoun Camp)
* Over the past weeks, UNRWA has been striving to locate displaced Palestine refugees. These efforts have been successful in locating 2,303 Palestine refugees at 8 non-UNRWA schools in Damascus. 1,926 Palestine refugees have been identified in Hama Camp, having come from Yarmouk and Ein el Tal. 5,281 refugees have made themselves known to UNRWA in Homs Camp, having fled from Aleppo, Damascus and Homs countryside. 2,171 refugees have made themselves known to UNRWA in Latakia, having fled from Yarmouk and Ein el Tal. (Total: 11,981).

Damascus / Rif Damascus:

Intensive clashes and shelling continued in all areas surrounding Yarmouk with several shells impacting within the camp. It is estimated that violence in the camp has forced approximately 60 per cent of the camp’s residents to flee. On 1 March, two Palestinian men were hanged in public on Palestine Street in Yarmouk. UNRWA is shocked and distressed by these killings and the manner in which they were carried out. International humanitarian law applies to all parties to the conflict in Syria and extra-judicial killings are in violation of that law. UNRWA particularly deplores the increased levels of fear and trauma these deaths will generate among Palestine refugees across Syria. UNRWA issued a media statement denouncing the perpetrators of this tragedy.
The situation remains tense in Yarmouk where there are armed opposition groups throughout the camp and security forces controlling access to the camp.
UNRWA organized distribution of food items to Palestine refugees who remain in Yarmouk. The activity is tentatively expected to be completed in eight days. This was the first direct humanitarian activity in Yarmouk by any UN agency since early December 2012 when a spike in the intensity of the conflict triggered significant displacement, attracted the presence of armed opposition groups, and curtailed humanitarian access. The ongoing food distribution was arranged in cooperation with GAPAR and a federation of local Palestinian charities. The mediation of the Office of the Joint Special Representative (OJSR) was instrumental.  
Insecurity continues to cause displacement, deaths and injuries in camps throughout Damascus/Rif Damascus Governorate including Sbeineh, Seyeda Zaynab, and Hussineiyeh where about half of the residents have left to seek safety. An UNRWA school in Husseiniyah in the Damascus area was recently looted by unknown individuals. The situation is worsening in Khan Dannoun Camp which is now overcrowded as more displaced refugees arrive from other areas. Clashes and shelling continued in Khan Sheikh Camp, Douma, Qaboun, Derayya, Moadamiyeh and Barzeh. A missing UNRWA area staff member was last seen returning from work to his home in Barzeh. The staff member’s father was found dead when he went looking for his son.

Aleppo: The situation remains unpredictable in Aleppo where shelling continues in the area of the Old City. Armed opposition elements allegedly restrict access to Neirab camp, while accusing camp residents of harboring armed groups loyal to the Syrian forces. This week, at least two Palestine refugee children were killed in clashes in the camp. A recent distribution of bread was made possible in the camp through access from the adjacent airport. Another consequence of armed conflict in Neirab is restricted movement of residents, including a group of 200 Palestinian students who sought UNRWA’s assistance in securing their movement out of the camp. In contrast to Neirab, the situation in Ein el Tal is calm. UNRWA’s facilities remain operational in the area but are experiencing grave security challenges in providing humanitarian assistance.

Dera’a: Sporadic shelling continued in Dera’a town and in the camp. UNRWA is currently seeking an alternative location for the area office to ensure more secure access for beneficiaries and staff. Shelling also continued in the area of Mzerieb.

Homs: Intensive shelling in the town continued throughout the week. Gunfire damaged windows at the area office with no reports of casualties. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

Hama: This week there were reports of shelling in the vicinity of the camp. UNRWA facilities are operational.

Lattakia: The situation remains calm in Lattakia and UNRWA facilities are operational.


The deteriorating situation in Syria has led to approximately 32,000 refugees crossing into Lebanon since the start of the conflict. In Lebanon, Palestine refugees from Syria are dispersed in Saida (30 per cent), northern Lebanon (15 per cent), Beqa’a (23 per cent), central Lebanon Area (17 per cent) and Tyre (15 per cent). Emergency shelter remains the most pressing need of Palestine refugees in Lebanon where the majority of them are sheltering in overcrowded camps. UNRWA continues to provide cash assistance, clothing and food vouchers to vulnerable Palestine refugee families from Syria, many of whom are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance and the host community to survive.


Jordan - PRS refugees per areaThe number of Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) registered with UNRWA in Jordan is 4,569, 221 of whom are in Cyber City, a government appointed facility. The remainder are dispersed in host communities across Jordan (as per the adjacent chart). 
UNRWA schools now host 405 Palestinian and 158 Syrian children.
In the last week, health services were provided to 207 PRS through UNRWA Health Centers. 
In February, cash for food support was distributed to 1,561 refugees living in Zarqa and Irbid governorates.
UNRWA participates in the Child Protection and Gender-based Violence (GBV) Sub-Working Group in Jordan. The group has now finalizing an in-depth GBV study in Za’atari entitled “Findings from the Inter-Agency Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence Assessment in the Za’atari Refugee Camp”. According to the executive summary, “The assessment focused on reported and perceived patterns of threats, as well as knowledge and analysis of existing prevention and response to CP and GBV issues. Additionally, the report highlights recommendations on how these issues can be addressed in the humanitarian context to inform inter-agency programming.”
An in-depth host community study will be released in about one month’s time, but only Palestine refugees from Syria currently residing in urban areas would potentially be covered, as the Palestine refugee camps in Jordan were not included in the study. In the coming weeks, UNRWA will conduct a protection assessment amongst Palestine refugees from Syria in Jordan to help better understand protection needs of this vulnerable community. This assessment will complement the broader host community assessment.

Vulnerable child

Maya*, a 13-year-old Palestine Refugee from Syria, was separated from her grandparents as the situation escalated in Dera‘a late in October 2012. As a result of risks of exposure to violence, it was decided to send Maya to her mother who is the second wife of a Jordanian. The mother, whom Maya had not seen in 8 years, bailed her out of Za‘atari camp to come live with her in Amman. While the step-father agreed to let Maya stay with his wife, he has provided no financial support for Maya‘s urgent needs. For her daughter‘s safety, the mother sent Maya to a governmental school near her home, since the nearest UNRWA school is a-one-hour bus trip away. The school has given Maya strict notice that she must produce acceptable documents for registration or she will be sent home. UNRWA is following this case with concerned stakeholders to seek ways to enable Maya and other similarly vulnerable children to access the right to education in a safe environment.

*The refugee’s name has been changed to protect she and her family’s identity

Funding requirements

2013 Regional Response Plan (January 2013 to June 2013): 

  •  The total pledged amount against UNRWA‘s 2013 response plan is now at USD 26.57 million, equivalent to 29.1% of the total budget of the 2013 Response Plan required (USD 91.24 million). Slight decrease in income forecast compared to last week is due to variation of monthly exchange rate used for pledges to be received.
  • Out of the USD 26.57 million pledged funds, USD 19.04 million were received so far.

2012 Regional Response Plan ( to 31 December 2012):

  • Out of the USD 28.9m pledged funds USD 1.94 million remain outstanding (= outstanding installments of 2012 pledges).