Syria crisis situation update (Issue 46)

12 May 2013
10 May 2013
UNRWA continues to respond to the needs of over 400,000 refugees in Syria, over half of whom have been displaced inside Syria by increasing levels of armed conflict in and around refugee camps in Damascus, Dera’a and Aleppo countryside. The number of refugees who have fled Syria to neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan also continues to rise. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria entering Lebanon and Jordan is now over 53,000 and 6,000 respectively. Inside Syria, just over 8,000 refugees are currently being provided shelter in UNRWA facilities, and many more are being provided accommodation in refugee camp communities.
  • UNRWA staff continue to work under circumstances of significant personal risk. This week, a staff member in Dera’a was struck in the shoulder by a bullet while on her way to work, becoming the latest of 11 UNRWA staff have now been injured as a result of conflict. Six UNRWA staff have been killed. UNRWA vehicles and facilities continue to sustain damage, and this week an armoured vehicle was hit by shrapnel whilst returning from an interagency mission to Homs. Approximately 22 vehicles have been hi-jacked and are currently still missing. A garbage truck previously stolen and recovered from Dera’a Camp has again been taken.
  • The Education Department reports that as of 8 May 47 out of 118 schools were open across Syria, with many schools closed across Damascus and in Ein el Tal Camp. 24,267 students were able to attend classes, representing 36% of all enrolled students. The Agency continues to make use of 20 non-UNRWA facilities in Damascus to maintain as many regular classes as possible for displaced refugee students.
  • Internet access and some telecommunications lines were down for approximately 24 hours on 7 May, apparently due to a technical problem across the country, during which time intercity and international calls were not possible. This had knock-on impacts for Area staff reporting to the Field Office in Damascus, as well as an Agency mission in Tartous between 6-8 May.
  • UNRWA fielded a mission to Tartous from 6-8 May as a first step towards establishing an Area Office there. The mission successfully identified a location for a support office. Once established, the Tartous Office will enable the Syria Field Office to streamline logistics for humanitarian supplies arriving at the port and will provide a platform for more rapid response to the needs of Palestine refugees, including displaced refugees, in northern and central Syria. 
  • Access to several camps, including Sbeineh, Yarmouk and Husseiniyeh, remains blocked due to elevated levels of conflict. On 6 May, the road to Lebanon from Damascus was closed for several hours, although the precise reason is unclear.
UNRWA mission to Tartous
From 6 to 9 May, the Syria Field Office completed a mission to Tartous, the first step towards establishing a support office and arrange warehouse facilities in the town. UNRWA colleagues on the mission were Francesco Cornaro, Head of Procurement and Logistics, Yaser Zeidan, Safety Officer, and Aziz Husein, Field Administration Officer. Much of the Agency’s humanitarian aid arrives through Tartous Port, and the new support office will have significant impact in streamlining and speeding up the clearance and onward transportation of humanitarian supplies for Palestine refugees.
Two UNRWA vehicles were transported to the town, and a location for establishing the office was identified. Due to high levels of displacement elsewhere across the country, demand for property in the town has risen, resulting in higher rental prices. A visit was also made to the port, which appears to be operating at approximately 50% capacity.
UNRWA staff met with the Port Managing Director to brief him on UNRWA’s mandate in Syria and the future scope of work out of Tartous. The Port Director assured UNRWA his cooperation to facilitate the port’s receipt of UNRWA consignments. A successful meeting was also held with Director of Customs who expressed his willingness to assist UNRWA with clearance of Agency shipments.
The return journey of the convoy was delayed for half a day by widespread internet and communication outages, which prevented essential mobile phoe and radio tracking facilities from operating.
IDP numbers in UNRWA facilities as of 9 May:
Area F M Children Total
Damascus Training Centre
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
Damascus (Mezzeh)
Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Dummar)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
Damascus (Khan Dannoun Camp)
Total 2187 2157 3777 8121

Damascus / Rif Damascus: Hostilities continue in various parts of the city, including clashes and shelling. Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Husseiniyeh and Qabr Essit Camps remain largely empty of refugees, as a result of reported presence of armed groups and clashes. Yarmouk, Sbeineh and Husseiniyeh are completely blocked off by security forces. At least one refugee was killed by clashes in Husseiniyeh, another in Yarmouk and one in Khan Eshieh this week.

UNRWA continues to provide shelter to over 8,000 displaced refugees and Syrians, including in its Damascus Training Centre next to the Field Office, where many displaced UNRWA staff are also located. This week there was an altercation between several refugees at the DTC resulting in minor injuries.
Aleppo: Shelling and clashes intensified significantly in the old city and Leramon at the start of the week, but the Area Office was nevertheless operational. Many residents of Ein el Tal Camp remain displaced elsewhere and clashes continue around Neirab Camp, with armed opposition groups continuing to restrict access to the camp. Some refugees were however able to reach the city. At the time of writing, there were unconfirmed reports that another member of staff has been detained in Aleppo.
Dera’a: Shelling could be heard at a distance from Dera’a Camp, and a child was killed by gunfire inside the camp at the start of the week. A staff member was shot and injured in the shoulder as she made her way to work this week, bringing the total number of injured staff across Syria to 11. Towards the end of the week the camp was relatively quiet, and the South Area Office estimates that the camp is approximately 33% full, with the remaining refugees seeking temporary shelter with host families in surrounding neighbourhoods and villages outside Dera’a.
Mzerieb and Jillien villages were relatively calm, although Jillien continues to be cut off from Dera’a. Approximately 70 families (300 individuals) have been displaced from villages nearer the Golan Heights area. The border with Jordan remains inaccessible due to insecurity in the area, and the main road was inaccessible due to conflict along the route.
Homs: The town and camp were relatively quiet this week, and on 7-8 May contact could not be made with area staff due to widespread communications outages.
Hama: The town and camp remained relatively quiet this week, with similar communications problems on 7-8 May.
Lattakia: The situation remains calm and UNRWA continues to deliver services.
Palestine Refugees from Syria in Lebanon
There are approximately 53,000 Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) currently in Lebanon. The largest proportion of refugees is located in the southern town of Saida, with the remainder spread evenly between Beqaa Valley, Tyre, Beirut and the north.
Collective shelter rehabilitation
UNRWA has actively been working on responding to much needed shelter rehabilitation for PRS. As of 7 May, eight requested shelters have been renovated, of which six are located in Saida and two are in Tyre. 87 families are currently being provided with adequate housing. Six additional shelter rehabilitation requests have been approved but not yet completed, which will provide housing for a further 60 families. Three of these shelters are in Saida and another three are in Tyre.
UNRWA has responded to the education, recreation and psychosocial needs of PRS children of schooling age with special classes focusing on Arabic English and arithmetic, as well as recreational activities. As of 6 May 2,983 students are attending special classes and a further 641 are attending regular UNRWA classes in UNRWA schools.
UNRWA continues to deliver medical consultations and medications through its 28 health centres. Together with donors and partners, UNRWA covers primary health care as well as secondary and tertiary hospitalization, but the latter only for emergency and life-saving conditions.
The Agency has now positioned a Monitoring and Reporting Officer at the border with Syria in Maznaa. The Officer’s responsibilities include monitoring the border, reporting on protection issues and inform about advocacy efforts to ensure the border remains open to Palestine refugees fleeing Syria. PRS entering Lebanon are encouraged to approach UNRWA installations to provide the Agency with their details. PRS who are not recorded by UNRWA are unable to benefit from UNRWA services and distributions.
PRS continue to be issued seven-day transit visas upon entry, at a cost of 25,000LL, valid for 15 days. UNRWA has been informed that PRS can subsequently obtain a visa for a period of three months free of charge. PRS are still able to return to Syria with expired visas without being fined at the border.
Palestinian Refugees from Syria in Jordan
As of 8 May 2013, UNRWA has recorded 1,607 Palestinian families of concern to the Agency. Currently, 196 Palestinians reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid governorate.
622 students are attending UNRWA schools.




War-torn family faces eviction and uncertainty

Amina* is a young Jordanian woman married to a Syrian Palestinian refugee. She has three daughters, aged 5, 4 and 2. Early in October 2012, Amina and her family fled Syria to Jordan. Amina managed to enter Jordan with her three Palestinian daughters, but her husband, Hussein, was returned to Syria. She moved in with her two brothers, who live under one roof with their families. The family is very poor.
In late April, an UNRWA Protection Officer contacted Amina for an update on her case and found she had left her extended family‘s home. She could no longer tolerate the economic and emotional pressure of her extended family being driven further into poverty by supporting her and her children.
Amina’s family welcomed her decision to move out, and also insisted their mother move out to live with her in order to avoid the social stigma she could face living alone without her husband. Her mother’s presence places added financial strain on Amina. The tiny single room Amina and her family share lacks even the most basic furniture (kitchen utensils, stove, blankets). The toilet, which is at least inside the room, has no door.
After just a two-month a stay, the owner of the room began pressuring the family to leave so he could rent the room to refugees who can afford to pay more. Amina’s only income is the 20 JDs she receives from a charity organisation every month. She received emergency assistance from UNRWA, but it was only enough to cover the debts she had incurred. Amina still needed to pay for food, blankets, and children‘s clothes, as well as milk and diapers for her youngest child. On an exceptional basis, UNRWA has helped Amina meet her family’s basic needs, for which she is very grateful. She has a sister who is in a similar situation and also needs help. These sisters are just two of the 29% of Syrian Palestine refugee families that are headed by women, many of whom face the same dire circumstances with limited options for support.
*Names of individuals and places have been changed to protect the family’s identity.
2013 Response Plan (January 2013 – June 2013):
•           The total pledged amount against the 2013 Response Plan now stands at US$ 58.93 million, equivalent to 64.6% of the total budget of the 2013 Response Plan required (US$ 91.24 million). 
•           Another US$ 10.87 million are currently under discussion with several donors.
2012 Response Plan up to 31 December 2012:
•           No changes from last week‘s update. Out of the US$ 28.9m pledged funds US$ 1.9 million remain outstanding (= outstanding installments of 2012 pledges).
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees