Syria crisis situation update (issue no 56)

29 July 2013


Conflict is increasingly encroaching on UNRWA camps with shelling and clashes continuing to take place in and nearby a number of camps. A reported 16 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed this week as a result, highlighting their vulnerability. At least 44,000 PR homes have been damaged by conflict and over 50% of all registered PR are now displaced either in 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. 92,000 PR from Syria (PRS) have approached UNRWA for assistance in Lebanon and 8356 in Jordan. UNRWA tracks reports of PRS in Egypt, Turkey, Gaza and UNHCR reports up to 1000 fled to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. 

Situation summary

  • Despite the considerable challenges UNRWA is continuing to deliver emergency relief, health and education services to PR across Syria.
  • UNRWA vehicle car-jacked at gunpoint in Khan Dunoun when staff member delivered NFIs; shell fell on UNRWA health centre in Homs camp penetrating the roof leaving a hole but without casualties.
  • Intensive clashes and shelling in and around Yarmouk refugee camp. Many shells impacted in the camp causing the deaths of a reported 16 PR, 9 alone over the weekend and over double the previous week. The camp was sealed off all 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 15 UNRWA staff are currently being detained or have been reported missing. 21 vehicles stolen and still not accounted for.
UNRWA is sheltering over 8552 (+52) Syrians in 19 Agency facilities. 7098 (+43) are PR (see table 1). This increased steadily in July and UNRWA is now sheltering the highest number in its facilities since May 2013 although it has not varied greatly since the beginning of the year (7571). A further 3757 PR are being sheltered in 12 non-UNRWA facilities in Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus. Nearly 18,000 PR have also been identified or approached UNRWA in camps having fled from other areas in Syria 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.

Humanitarian Response

Education in Emergency
  • Around 26,000 out of 67,000 PR students are being reached. 23 out of 118 UNRWA schools are operational for summer education classes and nearly 200 UNRWA teachers are working.
  • Self-learning materials developed for students out not able to attend school;
  • Psycho-social support courses for 75 staff. 35 psycho-social counselors being recruited and trained;
  • Summer education classes ongoing for grades 1-8 with 7041 PR students currently undertaking additional learning and catch-up classes;
  • UNRWA students’ 9th grade exam results 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 in Emergency
  • Health centres: Five health centres fully operational in Damascus; and in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. Ein El Tal health centre closed as area occupied by opposition forces.
  • Health points: 5 providing support in areas of high concentration of IDPs in Damascus and 1 in Aleppo.  4 more health points planned in Damascus.
  • Medical supplies: stock received for next 12 months of which 4 months distributed to each area. Supplies now available until mid-October.
  • Hospitalisation: started reimbursements of non-contracted hospital bills and arranged for all PR in Syria to access health centres anywhere.
  • Surveillance of infectious diseases: An outbreak of Hepatitis A in Dummar and Jaramana with higher reported cases for January-June than for all of 2012 but no fatalities as a result. Vaccination working well, ongoing close cooperation with WHO and PRC.
  • Increase in rates of psycho-social trauma, stress/anxiety disorders reported.
Emergency Relief
  • Cash assistance: 2nd round distribution ongoing targeting 420,000 persons with SYP 6000 per person and 115,000 applications received in July. 20,450 families have received the cash assistance and UNRWA plans to distribute to 60,380 families thought 5 distribution pay points by mid-August.  Preparing to commence cash distributions in Aleppo for 9000 families end July.
  • New agreement signed with a bank in Syria to add another pay point and negotiations under way with banks and companies to speed up the distribution process. Efforts to carry out distributions through multiple mechanisms to improve efficiency and reduce risks to beneficiaries and staff.
  • Food distributions: Plan finalised for weekly food dispatch to Dera’a to cover food basket requirements for all PR there, 2000 dispatched last week and 750 distributed. Ongoing food distribution supporting PR in Yarmouk camp and being expanded. Distributing food baskets in Latakia and Hama to 2400 families with donation from the Russian Government.
  • Distributed 61,272 family food parcels and 476,336 ready meals/canned food since start of the crisis. 9 operational distribution centres across the country and 2 new distribution points planned in Damascus. Food provided to support 12,889 displaced PR living in temporary collective centres. Iftar meals provided in temporary collective centres in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.
  • NFI distributions: 13,665 persons have been supported with distribution of NFIs including mattresses, blankets and a variety of other essential non-food items with over 76,500 blankets, 48,500 mattresses and 6163 hygiene kits distributed so far. 
  • Humanitarian Convoy arrived in Aleppo 14 July 2013 with 4 month supply of medicines, hygiene equipment and essential supplies for PR. Needs assessments for displaced PR in collective centres complete and plans for next distribution of NFIs. Training for staff on local procurement.
Essential supplies arrive and distributed in Aleppo
Continuing work with Iraqi PR in Syria including regular counselling and visits in cooperation with UNHCR and their local partners, funded by US Government.
Water and sanitation in emergency
  • Sanitation: Continuing to provide regular sanitation services to all PR camps and 19 UNRWA facilities housing over 8,500 displaced Syrians and PR. 128 sanitation workers collect garbage, regular maintenance of 200 UNRWA facilities and upgrading sewage systems. Completed maintenance of sewage pipes in 2 temporary collective centres in Damascus and more ongoing.
  • Water: 15 water pumps operational; 2 new wells dug in Hama and Homs camps; existing wells in camp in Aleppo upgraded and tests underway for a new well in Damascus. 6 new water tanks installed in 4 temporary collective centres in Damascus housing thousands of displaced PR. Tendering for 6 more large tanks and 42 small for other temporary collective centres. Coordinating with UNICEF to establish a mobile water treatment unit and mobile lab for testing water supplies.
  • Hygiene: Constructing a kitchen in one shelter; procuring hygiene and waste disposal equipment. Installing shadecloth over tents in one temporary collective centre in Damascus new fridges and coolers installed in temporary collective centres 2 weeks ago.
92,000 Palestine Refugees from Syria (PRS) have approached UNRWA for assistance in Lebanon. They are located in Saida (27%), Beqaa (34%), Beirut and central Lebanon (16%), Tyre (14%) and north (11%). 
Collective shelters: UNRWA assisted 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 under assessment.
Environmental Health: more sanitation workers recruited and increased support for water networks in coordination with Popular Committees across the camps.  
Education: Summer learning classes ongoing 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 and training of 14 psychosocial counselors. Training workshop held for over 45 newly recruited psychosocial counselors from Lebanon and Syria who will work in UNRWA schools with PR students, their families and staff.  
Health: Continue to deliver medical consultations and medications through UNRWAs 28 health centres. Health awareness sessions conducted during the PRS cash distribution in June.
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
Relief: Catch up distribution for newly arrived PRS carried out on 2 July to 1160 families. UNRWA will support Terres des Hommes and its partner Nabaa to identify and distribute NFI and cash assistance to newly arrived PRS families in NLA, Saida and Tyre.
299 new Palestine Refugees from Syria (PRS) recorded in Jordan this week with the number at 8356 individuals (2055 families). 30% of households are female headed and all receive assistance from UNRWA. PRS usually approach UNRWA offices to receive assistance after a few months in Jordan when their resources are depleted. New records have averaged approx. 510 per month over the past three months. 52% of PRS are female, 49% are under the age of 18 and the average family size is 4.1. The majority of PRS reside in communities with host families or in rental premises mainly in urban areas of Irbid, Zarqa and Amman. The vast majority live in poverty and their most critical needs are for relief, shelter, food and health services.
Cyber City
198 PRS reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid. Last week UNRWA supplied sports equipment to support recreational activities for children and youths and thus improve their psychosocial well-being. UNRWA also amended its Memorandum of Understanding with JHAS for the operation of a primary health care center on site, and now covers the costs of four out of six days of duty, with UNHCR covering the remaining two days.
Education: Schools are closed for the summer. UNRWA expects the number of PRS children enrolled in UNRWA schools will almost double by the end of 2013 to reach 1200 from 651 at the end of the last school year. UNRWA will increase outreach to the PRS community to encourage caregivers to enroll the children in schools. It will also identify and address barriers to access, work to prevent drop-outs and offer non-formal or alternative education options for those that need it.  
Health: From January–end June UNRWA supported 7529 PRS visits for primary care (UNRWA clinics 5007, JHAS Cyber City Clinic 2033, dental care 489). From January–mid July PRS also made 152 visits to government hospitals for secondary care and 7 visits for tertiary health care. UNRWA continues to provide 100% coverage except treatments with prohibitive cost where private donations are required.   
Relief: Cash distributions have been expedited in June-July and the backlog of PRS who had not yet received emergency assistance has been cleared. Virtually all PRS families (1,842) have received at least one cash installment as well as food assistance from UNRWA. 415 households have received a cash second installment and transfers for another 334 families are being processed. UNRWA has introduced targeted relief for extremely vulnerable families who cannot cover basic needs or who suffer from a traumatic event, subject to needs assessments. It is also reviewing the amounts, timing and method for future cash distributions to accommodate a growing caseload and as part of an agency-wide effort to harmonise practices across fields which includes looking into ATM transfers.
Protection: UNRWA endorsed the Inter-Agency Emergency Standard Operating Procedures for Prevention of and Response to Gender-Based Violence and Child Protection in Jordan that were developed under the umbrella of the Child Protection and Gender-based Violence sub-working groups with the support of the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA). UNRWA’s active participation in the process ensured that PRS can access referral services. UNRWA continues to work closely with the Government of Jordan to address a range of protection concerns for PRS. 

Security summary

Damascus / Rif Damascus: Following the relative lull in hostilities the week before, intensive hostilities continued early week in many areas of the city. In the Easthostilities increased to intensive early week, subsided mid-week then intensified late week and through the weekend in a number of areas including Qaboun, Jobar, Barzeh, Harasta, Erbeen, Zamalka and Eastern Ghouta. In the South intensive clashes and shelling early and mid-week including in and around Yarmouk camp with shells impacting in the camp and heavy clashes on all sides. This subsided late week and through the weekend to intermittent but with many shells impacting in the camp causing 16 PR deaths, see below. Sporadic clashes and shelling all week around the camps in Sbeineh, Qabr Essit, Husseiniyah, Douma, Ramadan and Sit Zeynab. Hostilities also intensified to intermittent/ sporadic in the Southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh for most of the week. Reports of a VBIED and mortars impacting in Jaramana late week killing over 10 persons although not impacting in the camp. An UNRWA vehicle was car-jacked at gunpoint late-week in Khan Dunoun when the staff member was delivering NFIs. Security forces apparently regained control of the entire camp of Qabr Essit late week 
Intensive clashes and shelling day and night in and around Yarmouk refugee camp early week subsiding to intermittent late week and through the weekend. However, many shells impacted in the camp causing the deaths of a reported 16 PR; 5 on Wednesday and 9 over the weekend. The camp was sealed off all week. Limited facilities are available in some camps due to the nature of the conflict and accessibility of UNRWA staff. Less than 30% of Yarmouk camp residents remain, health centres unable to operate since January 2013 and facilities remain closed. Many PR there are extremely vulnerable and have limited or no flight options outside the camp. Armed opposition groups remain in the camp.
Aleppo: Intensive hostilities around the entrance to the city, Khan Al Asal all week and intermittent shelling in a number of areas of the city, subsiding somewhat mid-week. Build-up of military forces around Bustan Al Qasr late week followed by intensive clashes and shelling there over the weekend. Ein El Tal continues to remain empty of refugees as 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 with three schools providing shelter to IDPs.
Dera’a: Intermittent clashes early week subsiding into sporadic clashes and shelling from mid-week but not in the camp. The camp remained relatively calm and operational with only 10% of PR remaining there and a distribution of food baskets started. Mzerieb relatively calm most of the week. Some shells impacted in the village but with no casualties and all camp facilities remained operational. Jillien remainedrelatively calm most of the week with the main road still blocked. The border to Jordan reportedly remained open but with sporadic hostilities in the area and along the route.  
Homs: Sporadic hostilities continued inside Homs city during the week increasing to intensive clashes and shelling over the weekend. Most of the week Homs camp remained relatively calm and all facilities operational. Some quarrels between PR and shopkeepers early week apparently over recent price hikes. 1 mortar impacted in the camp mid-week but with no casualties; 6 shells impacted the camp over the weekend with 1 on Saturday falling on an UNRWA health centre building penetrating the roof leaving a hole in it, but without casualties. Hama and Latakia towns and camps remained relatively calm throughout the week with all facilities in both camps operational, showing no change from the previous week. Most roads remained open.
Lebanon & Jordan
Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 28 July


Damascus Training Centre
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
Damascus (Mezzeh)
224 (+1)
539 (+1)
Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)
96 (+11)
92 (+10)
118 (+38)
306 (+51)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Dummar)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)
Damascus (Al Qaboun)
2267 (+11)
2264 (+10)
4021 (+31)
8552 (+52)
The increase in number of IDPs in UNRWA facilities last week was less than in previous weeks, less than one third the increase in the previous two weeks. The focus of the increase was in Khan Eshieh camp in Damascus with 51 extra IDPs. All other UNRWA facilities except one camp saw no increase in IDP numbers.
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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