Syria crisis situation update (issue no 57)

12 August 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 6 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed this week as a result. UNRWA estimates that over 50% of all registered PR are now displaced either in Syria or to neighbouring countries. A recent survey by UNRWA Microfinance Department found that 55.7% of client households in Syria had been damaged by conflict. This proportion is likely to be significantly higher among PR given high rates of displacement and the location of Palestine refugee camps in conflict areas.
Approximately 235,000 refugees are displaced in Syria with over 200,000 in Damascus, around 6600 in Aleppo, 4500 in Latakia, 3050 in Hama, 6450 in Homs and 13,100 in Dera’a. 92,000 PR from Syria (PRS) have approached UNRWA for assistance in Lebanon and 8430 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 considerable challenges UNRWA is continuing to deliver emergency relief, health and education services to PR across Syria.
  • 1 UNRWA staff member, a teacher, was killed in Damascus, the eighth UNRWA staff member to be killed in the conflict.  
  •  Hostilities subsided somewhat around Yarmouk refugee camp although intermittent and sporadic shelling and clashes continued. Several shells impacted inside the camp causing the deaths of a reported 2 PR although overall casualties are less than last week. One PR was killed in Dera’a and 3 PR killed in Khan Dunoun as a result of armed conflict. A public minibus carrying PR from Homs camp was hijacked by an armed group earlier in the week.  
  • All four Area Offices and Syria Field Office in Damascus operational all week with most staff attending.
  • Total of 8 staff members killed in the conflict; 16 staff currently detained or reported missing; and 13 staff injured. 21 UNRWA vehicles stolen and still not accounted for.
UNRWA is sheltering 8,800 individuals (+127 from last week) in 21 Agency facilities. 83% of these, 7,304 (+105 from last week) are PR (see table 1). This increased steadily in July and UNRWA is now sheltering the highest number in its facilities since March 2013 although it has not varied greatly since the beginning of the year (7,571). A further 4,021 PR (+173 from last week) are being sheltered in 13 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:
  • 3,004 in Hama Camp from Yarmouk and Ein El Tal;
  • 6,420 in Homs Camp having fled Aleppo, Damascus and Homs countryside; and
  •  4,318 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
  • Education Ministry agreed for UNRWA to use 41 governmental schools in the coming school year in in areas where UNRWA schools were damaged or with large numbers of displaced Palestine refugees. UNRWA will operate the schools in afternoon shifts. 
  • 23 out of 118 UNRWA schools are operational for summer education classes for grades 1-8 with 7,919 PR students undertaking additional learning and catch-up classes and nearly 200 teachers working on this.
  • Annual Education Conference will be held on 21-22 August.
Health in Emergency
  •  Health centres and points: Five health centres fully operational in Damascus; and one each in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. Ein El Tal health centre closed as area inaccessible. 5 health points providing support in areas of high concentration of displaced PR 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 supply distributed to each area in June/ July. Supplies now available until mid-October.
  •  Hospitalisation: reimbursements of non-contracted hospital bills, granting PR in Syria access to health facilities across the country.
  • 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 Palestinian Red Crescent.
  •  Increase in prevalence of psycho-social trauma, stress/anxiety disorders reported.
Emergency Relief
  • Cash assistance: 2nd round distribution ongoing targeting 420,000 PR with SYP 6000 per person which will be completed by the end of August, reaching 35,000 in the coming two weeks. 115,000 applications received in July and since starting the 2nd round on 9 June 80,500 families (approximately 338,000 individuals) have received cash assistance. Emergency cash distributions includes Neirab camp in Aleppo for over 9,500 PR and is planned for 7,000 families in Dera’a by the end of August. 2nd round is completed in Homs for 18,900 PR, Latakia for 10,300 PR and in Hama for 9,700 PR. Final preparations are under way for implementation of the third round of cash assistance.  
  •  Agreement with a national cash transfer company being finalized to provide assistance in Aleppo, Damascus and Dera’a. Once approved, this agreement will significantly increase UNRWAs cash distribution capacity.
  • Food distributions: Distributed 14,379 food boxes to PR families in July across Damascus and Dera’a. 7 distribution centres operational in Damascus. 6,500 food boxes distributed to PR families in Damascus and 2,000 in Dera’a until 8 August. Ongoing distributions also underway in Latakia and Hama. Iftar meals provided in temporary collective centres in Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.
  •  NFI distributions: Over 4800 NFIs distributed this week in Damascus including over 1000 blankets, 900 jerry cans, 1300 hygiene kits and other essentials.   
  • New temporary collective centre established in Rukn Eddin area in Damascus in an UNRWA school.
  • Continuing work with Iraqi PR in Syria including regular counselling and visits in cooperation with UNHCR and local partners.
Water and sanitation in emergency
  • Sanitation: Continuing to provide regular sanitation services to all PR camps and 21 UNRWA facilities housing over 8,600 displaced PR and Syrian IDPs. 128 sanitation workers collecting garbage, regular maintenance of 200 UNRWA facilities and upgrading sewage systems. Ongoing maintenance of sewage pipes in temporary collective centres.
  • Water: Wells in Aleppo camp and Neirab being upgraded. 6 new water tanks installed in 4 temporary collective centres in Damascus housing displaced PR and Syrian IDPs. Tender for providing 42 small tanks for all temporary collective centres awarded and commenced. New water pump being installed in a Damascus temporary collective centre. Coordinating with UNICEF to establish a mobile water treatment unit and mobile lab for testing water supplies. Potable water tank installed in new temporary collective centre and installing shower units. Tender for construction of shower units in all collective centres being finalized.
  • Hygiene: Kitchen being constructed one temporary collective centre and shadecloth installed over tents in another. Procuring hygiene and waste disposal equipment. Insecticides, chlorine and nylon bags purchased for temporary collective shelters.
  • Wide range of essential maintenance being carried out to improve living conditions and hygiene in temporary collective centres and repairs and upgrades in UNRWA facilities including connecting tents to electricity where possible.
UNRWA financed 347 microfinance loans in July. To support the coping strategies of microentrepreneurs UNRWA designed a new microfinance product to provide short-term working capital loans to the thousands of new informal street-based enterprises that have been established to help poor and low-income households meet their basic needs. Newly established branch offices in Latakia, Tartous and Sweyda are increasing the outreach of UNRWA’s microfinance programme in Syria.
A survey was completed on the impact of the crisis on the living conditions of UNRWAs microfinance clients, their households and enterprises. The first in a series of quarterly reports on socioeconomic conditions in Syria, funded by the European Union (EU) and contracted from the Syrian Centre for Policy Research was published online. Read the report here (PDF). 
92,000 Palestine Refugees from Syria (PRS) had approached UNRWA for assistance in Lebanon as of 26 July. They are recorded as staying in Saida (25%), Beqaa (34%), Beirut and central Lebanon (16%), Tyre (14%) and north (11%). A headcount process is underway to validate the number of PRS currently residing in Lebanon.
Collective centres: UNRWA has rehabilitated 8 collective shelters (6 in Saida, 2 in Tyre) for 87 families and 5 more rehabilitations have been approved for 45 families. Rehabilitation works are being carried out for 9 shelters (7 in Tyre, 2 in Saida) for 61 families and 7 other requests under assessment.
Education: Summer learning classes ongoing for 4285 PRS students 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. 
Health: Continue to deliver medical consultations and medications through UNRWAs 28 health centres which covers 50% of tertiary emergency and life-saving conditions.  
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: UNRWA will support Terres des Hommes (TdH) and its partner Nabaa to identify and distribute NFI and cash assistance to newly arrived PRS families in NLA, Saida and Tyre. UNRWA will contribute family hygiene kits and quilts to TdHs cash and NFI distributions to 1500 newly arrived PRS.
33 new Palestine Refugees from Syria (PRS) recorded in Jordan this week with the number at 8,430 (2,075 families). The number of PRS recorded with UNRWA has doubled since January 2013, but new records slowed down since April 2013. 42% come from Rural Damascus, 33% from Damascus City and 20% from Dera’a. Jordan field office is planning a needs assessment before the end of the year to inform its 2014 response plan. It will be implemented in all areas, among a representative population.
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.
 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 1,200 from 651 at the end of the last school year. UNRWA social workers are conducting outreach activities to identify PRS families with children out of school, the barriers to their accessing UNRWA or other schools, ways to address these and encourage them to register their children. Funding from the United States (US) will also support the schooling over 600 PRS students in UNRWA schools.
Health: UNRWA continues to provide basic care and reimburses public hospitals for in-patient care. From January-31 July 2013 PRS made 5,512 consultations in UNRWA clinics for primary health care. Mental health is also a need and caseworkers continue to refer PRS with psychosocial problems including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to service providers. In some areas UNRWA social workers have started organizing support groups and will need support to sustain these activities.
Relief: UNRWA has provided emergency and food assistance to virtually all PRS families. Since January 2013, 1,542 families have received a first distribution and 749 families a second distribution as of mid-July. This week 1,950 Ramadan food parcels were distributed to PRS families thanks to a generous donation from the Saudi Committee. From January-31 July 2013 UNRWA disbursed just over USD 1.2 million in cash assistance to PRS in 15,425 payments.
Protection: The Jordan field office has started working on a new multi-layered case management system to support referrals and interventions. A training program for front-liners, particularly caseworkers will be rolled-out after Eid and training materials for this have been prepared. UNRWA continues to work closely with the Government of Jordan to address a range of protection concerns for PRS. 

Security summary

Damascus / Rif Damascus: In the East hostilities continued intensively early week around Barzeh, Jobar and Qaboun, spilling into several adjacent areas of Harasta, Erbeen, Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta and Mleha, with clashes and shelling occasionally spilling into Abbassiyyin and Karajat. This subsided to intermittent late week and over the weekend. In the south intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling all week including in and around the camps in Yarmouk, Sbeineh, and Qabr Essit and Husseiniyah, Douma, Sit Zeynab and Ramadan. Several shells impacted Yarmouk camp reportedly killing 2 PR. Sporadic and intermittent clashes and shelling continued all week in the southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh with a VBIED reported mid-week in Jaramana town, but the camps remained relatively calm. Hostilities increased around Khan Dunoun late week with several shells impacting in the camp and killing 3 PR as a result. This subsided to sporadic hostilities over the weekend. 
Hostilities continued early week at intermittent in and around Yarmouk refugee camp including the northern entrance to the camp. This subsided early weekend to sporadic then intensified to intermittent. A number of shells impacted in the camp causing the reported deaths of 2 PR (albeit less than 5 PR killed the previous week) and the camp remained 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 are extremely vulnerable and have limited or no flight options. Armed opposition groups remain in the camp.
Aleppo: Relatively calm most of the week but intensive hostilities reportedly continuing over the weekend in surrounding areas of Khan Al Asal and Al Rashideen. Ein El Tal: Continuing Reports of intensive hostilities around the adjacent Aleppo prison. The camp continues to remain empty of refugees as armed opposition groups continue to control the area although reports of a small number of PR returning.  Neirab camp and surrounding areas remained relatively calm most of the week as in previous week. The camp is accessible and all facilities operational with three schools providing shelter to IDPs. Some PR held a sit-in near UNRWA area office demanding more money and food.
Dera’a: Hostilities continued early week at sporadic clashes and shelling as in the previous week, intensifying mid-week. Intensive clashes and shelling in the city over the weekend and in the Al Sad quarter and Al Mahata with security force operations in Al Kashef and Sahari. This subsided by the end of the weekend. Dera’a camp remained relatively calm for most of the week although only 10% of PR remain in the camp. Mzerieb remained relatively calm most of the week with sporadic shelling in surrounding areas mid-week. 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, especially the area around Kirbet Ghazale.  
Homs: Sporadic shelling of the old city continued early week with two airstrikes in the Old City over the weekend. Al Waer remains reportedly inaccessible amid reports of ongoing hostilities there and 12 families fleeing the area were temporarily housed in an UNRWA school. Homs camp remained relatively calm with facilities mostly operational. 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 but reports of intensive hostilities in the mountains overlooking Latakia.
Lebanon & Jordan
Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 10 August 2013


Damascus Training Centre
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
516 (+2)
436 (+2)
943 (+10)
1895 (+14)
Damascus (Mezzeh)
Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Dummar)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
205 (+22)
164 (+18)
327 (+40)
696 (+80)
Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)
427 (+8)
411 (+8)
808 (+17)
1646 (+33)
Damascus (Al Qaboun)
2335 (+32)
2312 (+28)
4153 (+67)
8800 (+127)
The increase in number of IDPs in UNRWA facilities was similar to last week and in the same ranges as most weeks in July. The focus of the increase was in Rukn Eddin in Damascus due to another UNRWA temporary collective centre being opened there, adding 80 extra IDPs. Jaramana and Khan Dunoun in Damascus both saw smaller increases of 14 and 33 respectively and all other UNRWA facilities 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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