Syria crisis situation update (Issue 43)

20 April 2013

20 April 2013
Damascus, Syria

Regional Overview

Humanitarian needs continue to increase across Syria, with armed conflict occurring in and around Palestine refugee camps. Palestine refugees remain a particularly vulnerable group increasingly exposed to conflict-related death, injuries, displacement, trauma, and socio-economic deprivation. Their external flight options remain limited. Over 400,000 Palestine refugees in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance – nearly double the number of those in need just seven months ago (225,000, September 2012). Approximately 200,000 refugees are currently displaced in Syria. 40,000 Palestine refugees have fled to Lebanon and are being provided humanitarian assistance there, and a further 5,000 are now in Jordan, receiving health, education and relief services.
  • UNRWA participated in an inter-Agency convoy to Aleppo this week. Essential medication for Palestine refugees and medical supplies for four months were delivered and the staff in the Agency’s Aleppo Area Office were provided with support in procurement, logistics, and emergency management.
  • The Agency distributed over 17,000 blankets to displaced and vulnerable refugees this week, in addition to over 1,200 family food parcels. 143,000 refugees have now received food and NFIs from UNRWA since the crisis began.
  • Hostilities continued across Damascus and Rif Damascus, around Neirab camp in Aleppo, and Dera’a countryside, with clashes and shelling spilling into a number of camps and other areas where refugees reside. Ein el Tal camp to the north of Aleppo is becoming increasingly cut off from important supply routes. Intensive hostilities also continue around Dera’a in the south, and access to surrounding villages has become extremely difficult;
  • At least 20 refugees were killed in the Damascus area as a result of hostilities during the last week;
  • A staff member from Damascus has been detained, whilst another staff member was this week released, having been detained by security forces, also in Damascus.
  • Nearly 3,000 food parcels were distributed in Damascus this week, along with nearly 12,000 blankets. Distribution took place from UNRWA facilities, identifying displaced and vulnerable refugees.
UNRWA Humanitarian Mission to Aleppo
From 13 to 15 April, Dejan Potpara, Syria Field’s Deputy Director and Monther Aff, Humanitarian Supply Chain Officer represented UNRWA on a successful inter-Agency mission to Aleppo. This was the first contact in four months with colleagues in the Aleppo Area Office. UNRWA’s mission objectives were to assess the operational situation and challenges; to offer guidance on efficient management of the humanitarian response; to provide logistical support including on distribution of essential medical supplies received through WFP contractors and the establishment of local food procurement arrangements; to strengthen coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC); and to seek ways to facilitate access to Neirab and Ein el Tal Palestine refugee camps.
An important goal of the mission was to express appreciation to the extraordinarily committed and courageous Aleppo team, led by Labibeh Iskandarini. Ms. Iskandarini and her team of 258 staff exemplify the finest humanitarian qualities of UNRWA and the United Nations. Always placing the interests of Palestine refugees above their own personal and family concerns, the team have risked – and continue to risk – their lives to remained in Aleppo and to maintain UNRWA’s operations while enduring some of the most harrowing and perilous circumstances of the Syria conflict.  
As direct result of the Aleppo mission, distribution of essential medical supplies has been enhanced and the food procurement system has been streamlined to ensure that efficient, timely monthly distribution of food parcels to refugees containing 88 per cent of each family’s monthly nutritional needs. The mission also took steps towards establishing arrangements for secure, predictable access to Neirab and Ein el Tal Camps. A new supplier has been identified, who will arrange for food parcels to be delivered directly to these camps.
An essential part of the mission was to establish links with local authorities and other interlocutors that can facilitate access to Neirab and Ein el Tal Camps.
The humanitarian situation in Aleppo, where many areas are affected by conflict, is dire. The team reported widespread devastation of Aleppo city, with severe damage to buildings and infrastructure. In government-controlled areas residents reported electricity for no more than two hours a day, although the water system appears to be functioning. In opposition-controlled areas, there was no electricity and communal water taps were turned on for no more than two hours per day.
Humanitarian relief materials, including four months of vital medical supplies to UNRWA health centres, were delivered safely to the SARC warehouse in Aleppo for distribution in the coming weeks.
Despite the risks and impediments of intense, widespread armed conflict and limited access to conflict-affected areas, in the past week UNRWA has delivered 1,270 food parcels, 17,715 blankets and 278 mattresses. Since the start of the conflict in March 2011, UNRWA’s network of some 3,600 staff has delivered food parcels to 35,273 families as well as 70,417 blankets, 2,829 hygiene kits, and 15,494 mattresses. 143,813 Palestine refugees have now received food and NFIs from UNRWA.
Since March 2011, UNRWA has also 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 some where humanitarian access remains limited.
Currently, there are 8,141 IDPs accommodated in UNRWA facilities in Damascus and Aleppo. Approximately 84% are Palestine refugees and 16% are displaced Syrians. 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 addressed through the assistance provided by UNRWA. Each UNRWA facility is designated an UNRWA social worker who is on call 24 hours/7 days a week.

IDP numbers in UNRWA facilities as of 15 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)
In addition to the 8,141 accommodated in UNRWA facilities, a further 14,000 displaced Palestine have been identified as residing in other collective centres. Displaced communities remain highly vulnerable and dependent on humanitarian assistance for their basic food, NFI and health needs.
Regarding health care, 13 out of 23 health centres were open this week. A further two were partially open, and eight centres (all in Damascus) were closed due to nearby hostilities and access difficulties. Stocks for the health centre in Neirab Camp, Aleppo, were replenished just in time during the recent mission.
Damascus / Rif Damascus: The situation in Damascus / Rif Damascus Governorate remains tense and unpredictable with clashes continuing in areas such as Seida Zeinab, Yarmouk, Husseiniyeh and Jobar. The majority of residents from Yarmouk and areas such as Husseiniyeh, Khan Dannoun, Sit Zaynab, Khan Eshieh, and Sbeineh remains displaced. UNRWA estimates that there are approximately 187,000 displaced Palestine refugees from the Damascus area. There have been at least 20 refugee casualties this week, including a family of six who were killed in Sbeineh when a shell hit their house.
A threat on Facebook apparently directed at the UNRWA’s operations in Damascus triggered a number of additional security precautions at the Syria Field Office. Cash assistance was suspended and a reduced staff presence was required. Although the pace of the humanitarian response was affected, over 17,000 blankets were distributed to displaced and vulnerable refugees, as well as over 1,200 family food parcels.
Aleppo: Airstrikes, clashes and shelling continue in many areas of Aleppo. Armed opposition groups are continuing to restrict access to Neirab camp, and access to Ein el Tal Camp is now also severely limited for the same reason. UNRWA’s Deputy Director visited Aleppo this week, to conduct a needs assessment and provide urgent management support to area staff.
Dera’a: The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, and renewed clashes were reported this week. Facilities are operational, and some refugees have started to return to the camp. It is now approximately 50 per cent full. Four refugee students and an UNRWA teacher were detained this week following a security operation. The teacher was quickly released but the whereabouts of the students is not known.
Mzerieb village continues to see armed opposition groups present in and around the village, but all facilities are operational. Jillien village is however deserted, and all facilities there remain closed.
Homs: The town and camp remain relatively calm, and all facilities were operational this week.
Hama: The camp remains relatively calm and UNRWA facilities are operational.
Lattakia: The situation remains calm and UNRWA continues to deliver services.


Number of PRS in Lebanon: 42,078 PRS received cash assistance in the first week of April.
The breakdown per gender: 51% female, 49% male.
Breakdown per area of origin in Syria:    Damascus (89%), North (3%), South (2%), Central (3%), Other (3%)
Breakdown of PRS per area: Saida (31%), Beqaa (21%), Beirut (17%), Tyre (16%), Tripoli (15%). 53% live inside Palestinian refugee camps and 47% live outside of the camps.
The number of consultations in UNRWA health centers since January and until the end of March is 34,103 consultations. 70% of PRS who approach UNRWA clinics receive medication. It is worth noting, however, that since the beginning of the ongoing crisis in Syria (from August until the end of March) a total of 29,061 Palestine refugees from Syria have approached UNRWA to register at UNRWA health centers in Lebanon The number of secondary hospitalizations for life-threatening conditions since January and until the end March is 731 while the number of tertiary hospitalizations for life-threatening conditions from January until the end of March is 29.
The number of PRS attending UNRWA schools has increased to 3,353 PRS students, currently, 2,690 students are attending special classes and 663 are attending regular classes. All new arrivals are now being enrolled in special classes. UNRWA has prepared a strategy for both the continuing education needs of those who are currently enrolled and newcomers. PRS students are automatically admitted to UNRWA schools upon registration. Since March, teaching has begun for the 2nd part of the curriculum for Math, English, Arabic and Science for all grades in special PRS classes.
The education department is in the process of distributing vouchers with value of 50,000 L.L for each PRS children enrolled in UNRWA schools to buy clothes allowing them more personal freedom to choose what clothes they prefer.  This initiative has been funded by UNICEF.


Palestinian Refugees from Syria in Jordan
As of 18 April 2013, UNRWA has recorded 1,411 Palestinian families of concern to the Agency. Currently, 197 Palestinians reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid governorate. 
By expediting registration and emergency assistance procedures, UNRWA is rapidly catching up on its backlog of registrations, and that effort is reflected in the significant rise in individual PRS registered in Jordan. Whereas we reported 5,127 registered as of 11 April, the total registered as of 18 April is 5,859.
Since the 1st of January 2013, 816 PRS families received emergency assistant totaling $358,998.
622 students are attending UNRWA school as of April 17, 2013.
From 1 January to 15 April 2013, PRS have made 2,316 visits to UNRWA clinics across the Kingdom.
2013 Response Plan (January 2013 – June 2013):
  • The total pledged amount against the 2013 Response Plan is now at USD 51.1 million, equivalent to 56% of the total budget of the 2013 Response Plan required (USD 91.24 million). USD 15 million from Kuwait was received this week.
  • Out of the USD 51.1 million pledged funds, USD 49.6 million have been received so far.
  • Another USD 18.06 million are under discussion with several donors
2012 Response Plan up to 31 December 2012:
  • Out of the USD 28.9m pledged funds USD 1.9 million remain outstanding (= outstanding installments of 2012 pledges).
The human tragedy of refoulement
Zahra*, a fifty-two-year-old Syrian Palestine refugee, who lived in the Dera’a area of Syria, lost one of her sons to the Syria conflict and another son is missing. She and her husband feared for the safety of their third son, Ihab, and decided he could not be safe in the area. In early April 2013, the family made the difficult decision to split up, as Zahra’s husband, older than her and unwell, was unable to accompany them to flee from their home to seek safety. Zahra, her son and her sister, who is disabled, began moving about southern Syria to try to avoid Zahra’s son being detected. Finally they fled to Jordan. They managed to cross the border, but were transported by border authorities to a government reception center in Mafraq where they were held for 36 hours. There, they were identified as Palestinians and were told they would be deported back to Syria. They pleaded with the border officials to allow them to remain in Jordan on the grounds that Zahra had already lost two sons in Syria and the sister was disabled. They stressed they could not be safe in Syria. Zahra contacted UNRWA Jordan, but UNRWA was ultimately unsuccessful in its attempts to stop the refoulement. The family was refouled to Syria the next day and UNRWA has not heard from them since.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of this family