Syria Crisis Situation Update (Issue 54)

15 July 2013
Weekly Syria Crisis Report, 15 July 2013
Situation summary
·         1 UNRWA staff member, Muhannad Ashmawi, School Attendant in Kufr Sabt School in Yarmouk camp and 6 PR were killed in Yarmouk camp as a result of shelling, 1 allegedly by a sniper; 1 PR killed near Qabr Essit as the result of shelling.
·         1 UNRWA staff member detained early week in Damascus area.
·         Mortars allegedly fired by armed opposition elements impacted in Yarmouk camp and clashes took place in the camp one night; some shells impacted but did not detonate in Homs camp. Firefight in Ramadan camp Friday-Saturday night allegedly after armed opposition elements ambushed a checkpoint at the entrance to the camp then retreated through the camp.
·         IEDs in Damascus on Monday and Tuesday; and 2 VBIEDs in HOMS.
·         Sunday UNRWA staff and good were permitted to enter Aleppo from Damascus with a UN interagency mission after all entrances to the city were closed for a week.
·         Area and Field Offices in Damascus operational all week with most staff attending.
·         7 UNRWA staff members have been killed in the conflict and 13 UNRWA staff are being detained or have been reported missing. 20 vehicles stolen and still not accounted for.
UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis visited Syria from 9-10 July to support the Agency’s continued humanitarian services to Palestine refugees displaced by the country’s ongoing conflict. She visited UNRWA operations and encouraged the staff, commending them for their efforts to continue delivering aid to Palestine refugees.
Ms Ellis who oversees UNRWAs regional response to the crisis in Syria said: “Humanitarian access to Palestine refugees in greatest need must be assured. We will continue to communicate with the international community to support our emergency response and ongoing programmes.” She explained that UNRWA “is now providing emergency cash and food assistance, as well as critical basic health and education services.  These expanded services are crucial to ensure the well-being of Palestine refugees”. 
Ms Ellis attended a distribution of cash assistance in Damascus and visited the UNRWA distribution centre in Zahera, where Palestine refugees from Yarmouk collected food baskets. At the Damascus Training Centre, home to approximately 1,500 displaced refugees, she heard refugees share stories of their suffering, displacement and growing needs, and met staff of the Engaging Youth project funded by the European Union (EU), who briefed her about their work to meet the needs of youth living in conflict.
 At Jaramana refugee camp Ms Ellis visited the UNRWA al-Rameh school which is serving as a temporary collective shelter, and a school provided by the Government of Syria where UNRWA is running summer classes funded by the EU for displaced Palestine refugee students to make up for lessons lost to conflict.  She also visited the UNRWA Haifa school which houses displaced Palestine refugees.
The Deputy Commissioner-General appealed to all the parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international law and ensure that refugee camps and UNRWA installations are safeguarded. She thanked UNRWA staff for their dedication and commitment to serving the growing needs of Palestine refugees in spite of the difficulties and displacement they themselves are facing.
Ms Ellis emphasized that UNRWA would continue to provide services despite the intense challenges of the situation. “UNRWA has stood beside the Palestine refugees for more than six decades, thanks to the efforts of its staff and volunteers and our partnership with the refugees themselves. We continue to stand beside them now,” she said.  
Conflict is increasingly encroaching on UNRWA camps with shelling and clashes continuing to take place near to and within a number of camps. A reported 8 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed in Syria this week as a result including 1 UNRWA staff member, highlighting their unique vulnerability, with refugee camps often theatres of war. At least 44,000 PR homes have been damaged by conflict and over 50% of all registered PR are now displaced, either within Syria or to neighbouring countries.
Approximately 235,000 refugees are displaced in Syria with over 200,000 in Damascus, around 6600 in Aleppo, 4500 in Latakia, 3050 in Hama, 6400 in Homs and 13,100 in Dera’a. 71,000 PR from Syria (PRS) have approached UNRWA for assistance in Lebanon and 8057 (+120 from last week) in Jordan. UNRWA tracks reports of PRS in Egypt, Turkey, Gaza and UNHCR reports up to 1000 fled to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. 
1.       SYRIA
UNRWA is sheltering over 8317 Syrians (+157 from last week) in 19 Agency facilities with a near identical increase with the previous week. Of this 6986 (84%, +132 from last week and nearly triple the increase of the previous week) are PR (see table 1). This follows a fairly constant trend since April ranging from 8005 to a high of 8400 in May. The number of IDPs in UNRWA facilities has not varied greatly since the beginning of the year with the lowest figure 7571 recorded in early January. A further 4294 PR (+75 from last week whereas the week before was -3) are being sheltered in 10 non-UNRWA facilities in Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus. Nearly 18,000 PR have also been identified or approached UNRWA in different camps having fled from other areas in Syria (unchanged from last week) including:
·         3004 in Hama Camp from Yarmouk and Ein El Tal;
·         6420 in Homs Camp having fled Aleppo, Damascus and Homs countryside; and
·         4318 in Latakia camp having fled from Yarmouk and Ein El Tal.
The Agency continues to provide regular food, NFI and health assistance to registered and known PR if they have approached the Agency whether they are in UNRWA or non-UNRWA facilities.
Displaced Palestine refugee family sheltered in UNRWA Haifa School
2.       Humanitarian Response
  • Around 26,000 out of 67,000 PR students are being reached. 49 out of 118 UNRWA schools are operational with many PR students also enrolled in government schools;
  • Self-learning materials being developed for students out not able to attend school;
  • Psycho-social support courses for 75 staff. 35 psycho-social counselors being recruited;
Education activities for displaced refugees in UNRWA school housing IDPs, Jaramana camp, Damascus
Summer education classes ongoing for grades 1-8 with 5300 PR students undertaking additional learning and catch-up classes;
  • Educational review undertaken for the performance of Education Specialists during crisis.
  • UNRWA students’ results just issued in the 9th grade state exam were around 80%.
  • Vocational short courses being prepared for Aleppo and Damascus in a range of fields with such courses ongoing in Dera’a, Hama, Homs and Latakia. Youth engagement activities being extended.
  •  Health centres: a number of access challenges. Five health centres fully operational and one partially in Damascus area; Homs Health Centre re-open;
  • Health points: 4 working regularly; 1 being expanded and 2 more being opened;
  • Medical supplies: stock received for next 12 months of which 4 months distributed to each area. The humanitarian convoy arrived on 14 July in Aleppo with a four month supply of medicines for Palestine refugees there.
  • Hospitalisation: started reimbursements of non-contracted hospital bills and arranged for all PR in Syria to access health centres anywhere;
  • Surveillance of infectious diseases: No outbreaks reported, vaccination working well, ongoing close cooperation with WHO and PRC; and
  •  An increase in rates of psycho-social trauma, stress/anxiety disorders reported.
  • Cash assistance: 2nd round distribution ongoing targeting 420,000 persons with USD42 per person. Until end June 88,764 applications were received for the cash assistance and so far in July 91,127 applications have been received. 18,425 families already received the cash assistance in the second round as of 13 July and a plan prepared for July to distribute to 60,380 families (275,600) individuals thought 5 distribution pay points.
Displaced refugees wait to receive cash assistance at
UNRWA distribution centre, Damascus
Agreement signed with new bank in Syria to add another pay point and negotiations under way with banks and companies to speed up the distribution process. Attempting to carry out distributions through multiple mechanisms to improve efficiency and reduce risks to beneficiaries and staff;
Food distribution preparations in Dera’a, June 2013
Food distributions: Dera’a (3000 persons) and Damascus/Rif Damascus (22000 persons); food basket distribution in 3 locations in Damascus/ Rif Damascus with additional 3 distribution points being prepared to open in 2 weeks; Tendering for local food procurement in Aleppo;
Refugee families receiving food in an UNRWA shelter in Damascus
IDPs: Continuing to provide 2 meals per day (one cooked) to over 12,200 IDPs in 28 temporary collective shelters; WATSAN and living conditions upgrades for the temporary collective shelters;
 ·         NFI distributions: As of 7 July, UNRWA has distributed food, mattresses, blankets and a variety of other essential non-food items to 215,317 individuals in 2013.
Continuing work with Iraqi PR in Syria including regular counselling and visits in cooperation with UNHCR and their local partners.
UNRWA food and cash distributions in Syria in 2013 cumulative since March 2011
UNRWA distributions in Syria in 2013 by location and type as of 7 July 2013
Over 71,000 Palestine Refugees from Syria (PRS) have approached UNRWA for assistance in Lebanon. They are located in Saida (31%), Beqaa (21%), the Beirut area (17%), Tyre (17%) and the north (14%). 
Collective shelters: UNRWA has assisted with the rehabilitation of 11 collective shelters providing housing to 88 families; 4 shelters in Saida, 6 in Tyre and one in Central Lebanon. 7 other requests are under assessment.
Environmental Health: UNRWA has recruited more sanitation workers and increased support for water networks in coordination with Popular Committees across the camps.
Education: Summer learning classes for PRS who have been out of school during the school year, scheduled to run until September. Emergency education programme for PRS ongoing including recruitment of 14 psychosocial counselors.
Health: Continue to deliver medical consultations and medications through UNRWAs 28 health centres. Health awareness sessions conducted during the PRS cash distribution in June and staff attended a health training workshop.
Protection: Monitoring and reporting officer stationed at border crossing to offer advice to PRS when they cross and report on concerns and flow of PRS. Continue to advocate with Lebanese Government for equal treatment of all refugees at the border
29 more PRS families were recorded this week bringing the total to 1976 families (8,057 individuals) recorded by UNRWA in Jordan, 30% of which (583) are headed by women. The vast majority of PRS reside in communities with host families or in rented premises mainly in Irbid, Zarqa and Amman and live in abject poverty. 198 PRS reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid governorate.
Students are out of school for the summer but UNRWA expects the number of PRS enrolled in UNRWA schools will almost double by the end of 2013 to reach 1,200 (compared to 651 at the end of the 2012-13 school year). During the second half of the year UNRWA will intensify its outreach to the PRS community to encourage families with out-of-school children to enroll them in UNRWA or government schools. School counselors, who have been recently trained to provide counseling to PRS students will also work to further a more protective environment for PRS students in UNRWA schools. 
During the first half of the year PRS made 5496 visits to UNRWA clinics for primary health care services and 133 visits to government hospitals for secondary or tertiary health care. UNRWA continues to offer 100% coverage except for treatments whose cost is prohibitive and for which private donations are required. UNRWA also continues to support the operation of a JHAS clinic in Cyber City, which received 2,033 visits between January and June.
During the first half of the year 1550 families (6504 individuals) received emergency assistance for the first time and 557 families (2672 individuals) for the second time. UNRWA is reviewing the amounts, timing and method for future transfers to accommodate a growing caseload. It is also introducing targeted relief for extremely vulnerable families who cannot cover basic needs or who suffer from a traumatic event such as the loss of a caregiver or a serious illness, subject to needs assessments.
Protection: UNRWA continues to work closely with the Government of Jordan to address a range of protection concerns for PRS. 
3.       Security summary
Damascus / Rif Damascus:
Reports of 2 IEDs on Monday and Tuesday. Clashes and shelling continued in many areas of the city, including Sbeineh, Sit Zeynab, Husseiniyeh, Douma, Ramadan, Yarmouk and Khan Eshieh. Particularly intensive in Yarmouk, areas surrounding Sit Zeynab early week and continuing from the previous week in and around Jobar, Qaboun and Barzeh. Hostilities subsided somewhat on Wednesday-Thursday probably in light of Ramadan but intensified in many areas of the city over the weekend.
Reports of a brief firefight in Ramadan camp Friday-Saturday night allegedly after armed opposition elements ambushed a checkpoint at the entrance to the camp and afterwards retreated through the camp. Sbeineh Camp remains cut off by security forces with opposition groups still in the area. Less than 5% of residents remain and no UNRWA staff.
Some shells impacted the camps, notably Yarmouk, Sbeineh and Qabr Essit causing the deaths of at least 7 PR in Yarmouk including 1 UNRWA staff member (1 allegedly by a sniper which has been a continuing occurrence in the past weeks) and 1 PR in Qabr Essit. 1 UNRWA staff member detained at a checkpoint on a road between Qatana and Khan Eshieh early week. Limited facilities are available in some camps due to the nature of the conflict and accessibility of UNRWA staff.
Sporadic and intermittent clashes in and around Yarmouk refugee camp throughout the week. A number of shells impacted in the camp killing at least 7 PR, including an UNRWA staff member, a slight increase from 6 the previous week. The northern entrance is closed periodically by security forces who heavily restrict access to the camp. Less than 30% of camp residents remain (approx. 20,000 PR), all health centres unable to operate since January 2013 and all facilities remain closed. Many refugees there are extremely vulnerable and have limited or no flight options outside the camp. Armed opposition groups remain in the camp. The violence stayed at similar levels to the previous week.
Aleppo: Intensive shelling and clashed in many parts of the city early week subsided into sporadic/ intermittent shelling. All entrances to the city continued to be closed for most of the week until Sunday when UNRWA staff and good were permitted to enter the city from Damascus with a UN interagency mission. The office was operational throughout the week. Ein El Tal remains empty of refugees except a small number that visit to retrieve belongings and armed opposition groups continue to control the area. Neirab Camp and surrounding areas remained relatively calm as in the previous week. The camp remains accessible and all facilities are operational, providing shelter in three schools.
Dera’a: Continuing intensive clashed early week in areas surrounding the camp, especially Dera’a Al Balad, Dam Road, Al Mahata and AlKashif. This intensified mid-week, subsided somewhat at the end of the week and intensified on Saturday. The newly refurbished office opened mid-week and facilities were operational. Mzerieb relatively calm then sporadic shelling in the surrounding area mid-week. Two shells impacted the fringe of the village late week with shelling but most facilities operational as usual for the week. Jillien remainedrelatively calm most of the week and the main road is apparently open since Thursday after having been closed for weeks. The border to Jordan is now reportedly open after having been inaccessible for weeks due to insecurity along the route.
Homs: Continuing intensive shelling early week with 2 VBIEDs reported. Hostilities subsided Wednesday intensified Thursday and subsided over the weekend. The camp remained relatively calm for most of the week with some facilities closed on a couple of days due to the situation. 6 shells impacted in the camp late week and over the weekend, failed to detonate but some caused damage to housing. They were presumably fired by armed opposition elements targeting security installations in an adjacent university compound. UNCT operations remain suspended in the city. Hama and Latakia: Both towns and camps continued relatively calm throughout the week and weekend with all facilities in both camps operational, showing no change from the previous week. However, rumours of a possible (third-party) airstrike against a military facility in the area last week and reports of a clash between 2 armed opposition groups in the mountains nearby on Thursday. Most roads in Homs blocked.
Lebanon & Jordan
Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 14 July:

Damascus Training Centre
338 (-45)
376 (-49)
576 (+49)
1290 (-45)
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
Damascus (Mezzeh)
165 (-2)
150 (+6)
223 (-4)
Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)
85 (+20)
82 (+19)
88 (+21)
255 (+60)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Dummar)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
173 (+2)
142 (+1)
270 (+3)
585 (+6)
Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)
407 (+23)
394 (+33)
763 (+73)
1564 (+129)
Damascus (Al Qaboun)
12 (+1)
7 (+1)
27 (+5)
46 (+7)
2210 (-1)
2219 (+11)
3888 (+147)
8317 (+157)
Overall 157 more IDPs were recorded in UNRWA facilities in the week, the majority of this being children (94%). More than half of camps (58%) saw no increase in IDPs with few increases or decreases in female, male or children. Only Damascus Training Centre saw a decrease (overall -45) but with an increase in the number of children.
Increases: The largest increase in the week was in Khan Dunoun Camp, Damascus with an overall increase of 129individuals including 73 children. Khan Eshieh Camp showed the second highest, a small overall increase (+60) split fairly equally between men, women and children. Small increases of less than 10 individuals were reported in Rukn Eddin and Hama camps.