Syria crisis situation update (issue no 58)

26 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) including 1 child were killed this week as a result. UNRWA estimates over 50% of 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, 6450 in Homs and 13,100 in Dera’a. 8,732 PR from Syria (PRS) have registered with UNRWA for assistance 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.
  • Staff member detained and then released in Homs. Intermittent and sporadic hostilities continued in and around Yarmouk refugee camp. Several shells impacted inside the camp causing the deaths of 3 PR including one newborn girl. 3 PR also killed in Qabr Essit due to hostilities and unverified social media reports 25 PR may have been killed in the alleged chemical weapon attack in Eastern Ghouta, Damascus on Tuesday.
  • Increase in the number of reported airstrikes in and around the camps this week in Eastern Damascus, Husseiniyah, Douma and Darayya and Moadhamiyeh.
  • All 4 Area Offices and Syria Field Office in Damascus operational all week with most staff attending.
  • 8 staff members killed in the conflict, 15 staff currently detained or reported missing and 14 staff injured. 21 UNRWA vehicles stolen and not accounted for.


UNRWA is sheltering 8,654 individuals (-199 from last week) in 19 Agency facilities. 2 UNRWA facilities in Aleppo are no longer serving as temporary collective shelters as the IDPs left. 85% of these, 7,356 are PR (see table 1). Although the number decreased this week UNRWA is continuing to shelter one of the highest numbers of IDPs in its facilities since the start of the year. A further 3,922 PR (-103 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.

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 held on 21-22 August in Damascus.
  • Ongoing development of self-learning materials and preparations for the new school year.
  • Installing glass panes in government schools UNRWA will use in the new school year.

Engaging Youth

An updated needs assessment for interventions was conducted in Damascus collective shelters. Start up support for sustenance is being piloted with 2 groups of women at Safad collective center after they participated in hairdressing and knitting/embroidery courses to be able to sell their products and services. Two new specializations have been added to upcoming vocational courses at DTC and Khan Dunoun. Searching for new employers in areas where staff and beneficiaries have relocated to and preparation is under way to conduct English and ICDL courses for UNRWA staff.

Health in Emergency

  • Health centres and points: 5 health centres operational in Damascus; and one each in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. 5 health points providing support in areas of high concentration of displaced PR in Damascus and 1 in Aleppo. 1 new health point being equipped and 3 more 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: 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. 16,816 families received the assistance this week. 115,000 applications received in July and since starting the 2nd round on 9 June 89,935 families (approximately 406,043 individuals) have received cash assistance. Emergency cash distributions taking place in Neirab camp, Aleppo for over 9,500 PR and is planned for 7,000 families in Dera’a by mid-September. Final preparations under way for implementing a third round of cash assistance.
  • Agreement with a national cash transfer company being finalized to provide assistance in Aleppo, Damascus and Dera’a which will significantly increase UNRWAs cash distribution capacity.
  • Food and NFI distributions: Distributed 20,675 food boxes to PR families so far in August across Damascus and Dera’a. 6 distribution centres operational in Damascus. Nearly 8000 food boxes, 4770 portions of cooking oil, over 2100 rations of milk and nearly 42,000 items of canned food distributed to PR families in Damascus last week.

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 UNRWA facilities. 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: Well in Neirab camp being upgraded. Testing and working on water well in Homs camp and gaining government approval for digging a new well in Hama camp. 39 out of 42 small water tanks installed in temporary collective centres. Tender for construction of shower units in temporary collective shelters awarded. Purchased water for IDPs in Khan Dunoun and Khan Eshieh.
  • Hygiene: Purchasing garbage bins and nylon bags and purchased insecticides for temporary collective centres. Distributed chlorine tablets and sprayers in temporary collective shelters.
  • Essential maintenance to improve living conditions and hygiene in temporary collective centres and repairs and upgrades in UNRWA facilities. This includes connecting tents to electricity where possible, electrical and security works and upgrades in centres.


UNRWA financed 347 microfinance loans in July and designed a new microfinance product to provide short-term working capital loans to 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 the programme in Syria.

Survey completed on the impact of the crisis on the living conditions of the 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 full report here (PDF).


Collective centres: rehabilitated 8 collective shelters (6 in Saida, 2 in Tyre) for 87 families and 5 more rehabilitations approved for 45 families. Rehabilitation works being carried out for 9 shelters (7 in Tyre, 2 in Saida) for 61 families and 7 requests under assessment.

Education: Summer learning classes ongoing until September for 4,324 PRS students who have been out of school during the school year. Clothes vouchers distributed to each new PRS student.

Health: Continue to deliver medical consultations and medications through UNRWAs 28 health centres which covers 50% of tertiary emergency and life-saving conditions.

Protection: Continue to monitor and offer advice and assistance to PRS crossing at the border and advocate with Lebanese Government for equal treatment of all refugees at the border

Relief: Changing cash distribution method to ATM cards and reconfirming PRS details to prepare for future distributions.


8,732 PRS are recorded with UNRWA in Jordan and receive vital relief, education and health protection services. 52% are female and 25% are female-headed households. 49% are under the age of 18. Most reside in communities with host families or in rental premises mainly in Irbid, Zarqa and Amman. 192 reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid. 1.4% have no documentation (e.g. passport, travel documents). 96% are from Damascus Rural (43%), Damascus City (33%), and Dera’a (20%). A large number are assessed to live in abject poverty. Their precarious legal status means they face difficulties in relation to civil processes and access to services and employment.

Education: Schools are closed for the summer. Conducting back to school outreach to encourage PRS caregivers to enroll their children in schools in the new school year. UNRWA expects the number of PRS children enrolled in its schools will almost double by the end of 2013. Plan to extend psychosocial support training given to 18 school counselors to a least 150 teacher counselors who will support the integration of PRS children in schools, create protective environments for them and identify vulnerable children for counseling and/or referral.

PRS health care consultations in Jordan, July 2013

Type of care

PRS consultations

Primary Care (visits to UNRWA clinics )


Primary Care (JHAS clinics  at Cyber City)


Secondary Care (government hospitals)


Tertiary Care ( government hospitals)


UNRWA health centres


Cyber City( Mobile dental clinic)




Health: Continuing to provide free primary health case to PRS in all UNRWA clinics and referrals with full coverage to government hospitals. In July alone PRS made 1,385 free consultations. Mental health is also a need and caseworkers continue to refer PRS with psychosocial problems including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to service providers.

Relief: Over USD 1 million in emergency assistance including food and cash provided to virtually all registered PRS families since January. 57 families so far received emergency assistance in August 2013 and from January-31 July 2013 just over USD 1.2 million in cash assistance disbursed to PRS in 15,425 payments. Planning a multi-sectoral needs assessment of PRS in Jordan to assist in targeting the most vulnerable.

Protection: A new case tracking tool developed to support referrals and interventions and generate accurate statistics on protection cases. Developing a new case tracking database and planning a training program for protection caseworkers, social workers and registration clerks and other front-line staff who detect cases in the field. Developing outreach materials with protection messages for PRS and in the final stages of negotiating a contract to conduct research on PRS protection issues.

Security summary


Damascus / Rif Damascus: In the East intermittent clashes and shelling early week increased to intensive mid-week with accompanying airstrikes and remained intensive over the weekend around Barzeh, Jobar and Qaboun and in several adjacent areas of Harasta, Erbeen, Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta and Mleha. Reports of a VBIED in Zamalka on Wednesday and allegations of a chemical weapons attack in Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday. Later unconfirmed social media reports that 25 PR were among the dead.

In the South, intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling all week, including in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Douma, Ramadan and Sit Zeynab. Several shells impacted Yarmouk camp reportedly killing 3 PR including a newborn baby girl, in Sbeineh but with no reported casualties and in Jaramana over the weekend injuring several PR. Airstrikes reported in Husseiniyeh early week and Douma mid-week. Hostilities in Qabr Essit and Husseiniyah intensified mid-week with 3 PR killed in Qabr Essit and an army offensive ongoing since 14 August to regain control of the camp in Husseiniyah. Mortars fell in Dummar project area early week with reports of PR casualties

Sporadic and intermittent clashes and shelling continued all week in the southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh. Shells impacted in Khan Eshieh early and late week but with no reports of PR casualties and airstrikes were reported in Darayya and Moadhamiyeh mid-week.
Intermittent clashes and shelling continued all week in and around Yarmouk refugee camp becoming intensive mid-week. Several shells impacted in the camp causing the deaths of 2 PR. Access restrictions also caused the death of a newborn baby girl. The camp remained sealed off all week and all facilities remain closed. Less than 30% of Yarmouk camp residents remain in the camp, they are extremely vulnerable and have limited or no flight options. Armed opposition groups remain in the camp.

Aleppo: Intensive clashes and shelling early week in Al Layramoon, Bani Zayd, the Old City, Al Ashrafyah and Bustan Al Qasr reduced to intermittent and sporadic from mid-week. Ein El Tal: A reported 30 families have returned to the camp but it otherwise remains deserted and occupied by armed opposition groups. 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. 2 mortars impacted the camp over the weekend but with no reported casualties.

Dera’a: Intensive clashes early week in areas surrounding the camp and sporadic shelling in Dera’a Al Balad. This subsided to and continued at sporadic for the rest of the week. Dera’a camp remained relatively calm for most of the week although only 10% of PR remain in the camp. Mzerieb: Relatively calm early week increased to sporadic shelling in surrounding areas mid-week then subsided to calm over the weekend. The camp remained relatively calm with most facilities operational. Jillien remained relatively throughout the week with the main road still blocked but the village accessible from side roads.

Homs: Relatively calm early week. An UNRWA staff member was detained by security forces and then released mid-week. Sporadic shelling of the Old City mid-week became intensive over the weekend and subsided again to sporadic by the end of the weekend. Homs camp remained relatively calm with most facilities operational despite increased checks at the entrance to the camp. 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.

Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 25 August 2013






Damascus Training Centre

400 (+43)

424 (+29)

602 (-23)

1426 (+49)

Damascus (Jaramana Camp)





Damascus (Mezzeh)





Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)





Damascus (Ramadan Camp)





Damascus (Dummar)





Damascus (Rukn Eddin)

169 (-49)

146 (-30)

287 (-68)

602 (-147)

Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)





Damascus (Al Qaboun)






10 (-35)

5 (-51)

6 (-14)

21 (-100)


12 (-1)



48 (-1)







2306 (-42)

2272 (-52)

4076 (-105)

8654 (-199)


There was a decrease in the number of IDPs in UNRWA facilities by 199, following weekly increases throughout July. This is the result of two UNRWA facilities no longer serving as IDP shelters in Aleppo as the IDPs left and a decrease in the number of IDPs in Rukn Eddin, Damascus. The Damascus Training Centre saw an increase in IDP numbers overall of 49 although a decrease of 23 children. All other UNRWA facilities saw no change in IDP numbers.

Hope in education – Rania’s story in Jordan

Nineteen-year-old Rania and her mother Amal sit side-by-side on a thin mattress, one of six that line the wall of the room the family sleeps in. The mother and daughter share a striking resemblance as well as keen intelligence and a passion for education, “Education is the first priority in life. The most important thing is to be educated people” Amal said.

Amal and her husband were successful lawyers in Syria. They lived with Rania and their three younger sons in a three-story family house in central Damascus. Rania always wanted to follow her parents into law, “I want to be a lawyer so that I can defend people. I dream of working in criminal law,” she says. Rania had just started her first year at law school when the war in Syria broke out. “For one year we lived in fear,” Rania recalls, “last Ramadan, when iftar started, the bombing started.”

Rania and her family are Palestine refugees and also hold Jordanian residency. Therefore, when they made the decision to flee Damascus they made their way to Jordan. Amal’s husband is elderly and unable to work. Amal has 15 years of experience working as a lawyer but has been unable to find a job. She can’t practice law in Jordan and has been unsuccessful finding even menial work. This leaves the family with no income and reliant on their savings.

Rania had been accepted to law school in Jordan but her family could not cover the costs to study. This devastated Rania, “I lost hope that I would find a solution. I was disappointed, frustrated and felt as if I had lost everything,” she said.

An UNRWA protection officer helped Rania enroll in an English course at the UNRWA’s Faculty of Education, Science and the Arts (FESA). “With UNRWA I found hope. When I was told I had been admitted to the college, I felt that I owned the whole world,” Rania said.

Amal received offers of employment for her daughter from a retail business but she refused. Despite the family’s poverty she is determined her daughter will be educated. Similarly, she won’t allow her young sons to work after school, insisting that they concentrate on their studies. Rania feels comfortable at UNRWAs FESA where she feels safe and supported. She is holding onto the hope that was rekindled when UNRWA helped her secure a spot at college and is thinking of ways to earn a wage while studying so she can pay for law school. “I plan to fulfill my dream to study law” she said.

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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