Syria crisis situation update (Issue 41)

08 April 2013

8 April 2013
Damascus, Syria

Regional Overview

The situation in Syria remains dire and continues to deteriorate, particularly in the areas of Damascus/Rif Damascus Governorate, Aleppo, Dera’a and Homs. Armed conflict has resulted in a rising death toll, displacement and compounded humanitarian needs. Palestine refugees remain a particularly vulnerable group as external flight options are limited and their overall protection needs are significant. As the crisis 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 4,966 individuals and almost 40,000 refugees are in Lebanon.


At a glance:

  • At least 8 refugees were killed in the Damascus area as a result of hostilities during the last week;
  • A staff member was reported missing on 1 April after she left her house in Khan Esheih area. In a separate incident, an UNRWA vehicle was allegedly carjacked by armed opposition elements in the same area on 29 March;
  • Negotiations continue to secure the release of a kidnapped UNRWA staff member in Homs;
  • Overall, hostilities increased across Damascus and Rif Damascus area, in the east of the city and around Yarmouk with clashes and shelling spilling into a number of camps;
  • Hostilities continue in various parts of Aleppo city and around Nairab camp;
  • Intensive hostilities continued in various areas in the south, including Dera’a town and the village of Mzerieb. The village of Jillien is reportedly empty as all inhabitants have fled for safer areas.

Despite security restrictions and limited access to conflict-affected areas, since the start of the conflict in March 2011, UNRWA’s network of some 3,600 staff has delivered food parcels to 30,166 families as well as 40,835 blankets, 2,829 hygiene kits, and 14,908 mattresses.

Since the start of the conflict, UNRWA has been able to reach 73,076 families with cash assistance. UNRWA projects team and social workers carefully monitor cash distributions. The use of the ATM banking system has also allowed UNRWA to reach Palestine refugees in areas of armed conflict where humanitarian access remains limited.

Currently, there are approximately 8,002 IDPs sheltering in UNRWA facilities in Syria that are being used as makeshift emergency shelter. Special needs of vulnerable groups such as 91 pregnant IDPs, 23 of which are coming to full term, and 53 new born babies are being considered in humanitarian assistance provided by UNRWA. Each UNRWA facility is designated an UNRWA social worker who is on call 24 hours/7 days a week.

In addition, UNRWA has identified nearly 14,000 displaced Palestine refugees in collective centres. Displaced communities remain highly vulnerable and dependent on humanitarian assistance for their basic food, NFI and health needs.

IDPs in four UNRWA facilities as of 04 April**:






Damascus Training Centre





Damascus (Jaramana Camp)





Damascus (Mezzeh)





Damascus (Khan Eshieh 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 2,384 Palestine refugees at eight non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus. 2,132 Palestine refugees have been identified in Hama Camp, having come from Yarmouk and Ein el Tal. 6,074 refugees have made themselves known to UNRWA in Homs Camp, having fled from Aleppo, Damascus and Homs countryside. 3,381 refugees have made themselves known to UNRWA in Latakia, having fled from Yarmouk and Ein el Tal. (Total: 13,971). UNRWA is providing food and NFI assistance to all displaced refugees who have approached the Agency.

Damascus and the surrounding area:

The situation in Damascus / Rif Damascus Governorate remains tense and unpredictable with clashes continuing in areas such as Jobar, Qaboun, and Barzeh. The majority of residents of Yarmouk and areas such as Husseiniyeh, Khan Dannoun, Seyeda Zaynab, Khan Esheih, and Sbeineh remains displaced. The rate of displacement is particularly acute in Sbeineh were UNRWA has received reports that a mere 5 per cent of the area’s residents remain in the area. While it is difficult to ascertain, UNRWA estimates that there are approximately 187,000 displaced Palestine refugees within the Damascus area. UNRWA has responded to the humanitarian needs of this particularly vulnerable group of Palestine refugees who, in many cases, are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. An UNRWA staff member was reported missing on 1 April after she left her house in Khan Esheih area. In a separate incident, an UNRWA vehicle was allegedly carjacked by armed opposition elements in the same area on the 29 March.


UNRWA continues to deliver humanitarian services in Aleppo despite on-going airstrikes and restricted movement of staff members due to high risk of exposure to violence, Armed elements are reportedly continuing to restrict humanitarian access to Neirab camp. Hostilities continue in Neirab and Ein el Tal camps and UNRWA is attempting to ensure that adequate medicine and supplies are available in these camps and the greater Aleppo area.


The situation continues to deteriorate in the area of Dera’a with reports of two shelters being damaged by an airstrike. An armed opposition group allegedly attacked a checkpoint in the city which caused the temporary closure of the area office for security reasons. There are also rumours of sniper activity which has severely restricted movement of staff members and the local population. The majority of the population of Jillien has left fled the village and all facilities remain closed due to the security situation.


There have been reports of intermittent clashes in the town centres, however, the camp remains relatively calm and UNRWA facilities are operational.


Security measures have been installed around the camp by security forces including barbed wire and a trench. There are rumours that an agreement may soon be reached by security forces and armed opposition elements for the removal of all weapons from the camp. An UNRWA health clerk working in Homs camp was detained by armed individuals earlier this week while returning from work,


The situation remains calm and UNRWA continues to deliver services.


This week, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, visited a cash distribution center in Beirut, where he met with some Palestine Refugees from Syria. The refugees spoke to the Commissioner-General about their sufferings and needs and he explained to them UNRWA’s efforts to assist them better. The Commissioner-General was accompanied by the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr, the Chargé d’affaires at the German Embassy in Lebanon, Michael Bierhoff and the Chargé d‘affaires at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Elsa Fenet.

Cash assistance to help with shelter is the greatest need amongst the almost 40,000 Palestine refugees from Syria who have fled to Lebanon. The majority of refugees from Syria is completely dependent on the humanitarian and host community to survive. UNRWA provides health care and offers education to approximately 3,000 Palestine refugee children from Syria in Lebanon. Overcrowding in camps due to the influx of Palestine refugees from Syria has meant that sanitation must be improved to ensure minimum environmental health standards.


In Jordan, UNRWA has registered 1,174 Palestine refugee families from Syria, of which 29 per cent are female-headed households. Of the 4,966 Palestine refugees from Syria, 58 per cent hold Jordanian travel documents.


% of Refugees





Syrian Arab Republic






Domicile in Syria

% of Refugees

Damascus rural


Damascus city












Currently, a total of 634 students are enrolled in the Agency’s schools. This is an increase of almost 90 per cent in the preceding 6-month period. In the past week, the number of PRS provided with healthcare services at UNRWA’s health clinics is 219, an increase of 240 per cent in the last 3 months.

Abu Omar*

Abu Omar*, a 53-year-old Palestinian refugee from Syria, was suffering from a severe infection that was on the verge of blinding him in his right eye. To address this urgent situation, he needed a donated cornea and to undergo transplant surgery. On 14 February 2013, Abu Omar was referred by the UNRWA clinic in Zarqa to Al-Bashir Hospital in Amman for treatment. On 5 March, Abu Omar asked UNRWA JFO for financial assistant to purchase a cornea from Jordan University Hospital which stocks artificial corneas from the USA. However, the process was halted when UNRWA learned from JU Hospital/Eye Bank that Abu Omar would need to wait for two months until new corneas were imported from the USA. With the help of the patient’s doctor at Al-Bashir Hospital, one of UNRWA’s Protection Officers for the Syria response contacted other hospitals in search of a cornea. On 21 March, a cornea was found at a private hospital, which agreed to donate the cornea to Abu Omar if transplant operation was conducted at Prince Hamza Hospital by the private hospital’s doctors. On 22 March, Abu Omar underwent a successful cornea transplant. Normally UNRWA funds surgeries performed at designated public hospitals, therefore, special approval had to be obtained from UNRWA’s Health Department to permit reimbursement of the surgery costs to Abu Omar. He will have his eyepatch removed in the coming days, hopefully to again see the world with two good eyes.

* The name of this Palestine refugee from Syria has been changed to protect his identity

Funding needs

2013 Response Plan (January 2013 – June 2013):

  • The total pledged amount against the 2013 Response Plan is now at USD 32.6 million, equivalent to 35.7% of the total budget of the 2013 Response Plan required (USD 91.24 million). New contributions were recently received from DFID (in-kind) and private online donations.
  • Out of the USD 32.6 million pledged funds, USD 23.9 million were received so far.
  • Another USD 20.1 million are under discussion with several donors.

2012 Response Plan up to 31 December 2012:

  • Out of the USD 28.9m pledged funds USD 1.94 million remain outstanding (= outstanding installments of 2012 pledges).
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
Help send a Palestine refugee child to school