Syria crisis situation update (issue no 59)

06 September 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 3 Palestine Refugees (PR) were killed this week as a result. UNRWA estimates over 50% of registered PR are displaced either in Syria or to neighbouring countries.
Approximately 235,000 refugees are displaced in Syria with over 200,000 in Damascus, around 6,600 in Aleppo, 4,500 in Latakia, 3,050 in Hama, 6,450 in Homs and 13,100 in Dera’a. Approximately 45,000 PR from Syria (PRS) are receiving assistance in Lebanon and 8,833 PRS have registered with UNRWA for assistance in Jordan. UNRWA tracks reports of PRS in Egypt, Turkey, Gaza and UNHCR reports up to 1,000 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.
  • Intermittent hostilities continued in and around Yarmouk refugee camp with airstrikes over the weekend. Several shells impacted inside the camp reportedly causing the death of 1 PR. 2 PR were also reportedly found killed as a result of hostilities in Qabr Essit the previous week.
  • 1 staff member robbed in Damascus. Six international UNRWA staff temporarily relocated outside Syria.
  • Increased restrictions for PRS to enter Lebanon.
  • 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 has activated several emergency preparedness measures in response to the current situation to ensure the safety and security of its staff, continuity of operations and contingency for different situations. International staff remain in Damascus and, at this stage, the Agency does not plan any reduction or suspension of humanitarian operations
UNRWA is sheltering 8,654 individuals in 19 Agency facilities (no change from last week). 85% of these, 7,356 are PR (see table 1). UNRWA is continuing to shelter some of the highest numbers of IDPs in its facilities since the start of the year. A further 4,033 PR (+111 from last week) are being sheltered in 14 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

Emergency preparations
UNRWA is activating a number of emergency preparedness measures including identification of space for potential additional temporary collective shelters; increasing security at its facilities where possible; contingency plans for business continuity; establishing a warden system for staff; prepositioning medical supplies and equipment, food and NFIs including construction of additional storage facilities; advancing distributions and additional coordination with the Agency’s other field offices;
Education in Emergency
  • Education Ministry agreed for UNRWA to use 41 governmental schools in the coming school year where UNRWA will operate the schools in afternoon shifts.
  • 23 of 118 UNRWA schools are operational for summer education classes for grades 1-8 with 7,919 PR students and nearly 200 teachers working on this.
  • Ongoing development of self-learning materials and preparations for the new school year and installation of glass panes in government schools UNRWA will use in the new school year.
  • Read more about the UNRWA Back to school campaign:
Engaging Youth
Conducted an updated needs assessment for interventions in Damascus collective shelters. Start up support 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.
Health in Emergency
  • Health centres and points: 5 health centres operational in Damascus; and 1 each in Homs, Hama, Latakia, Neirab and Aleppo. 5 health points supporting 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. First 100 first aid kits received from Palestine Red Crescent (PRC).
  • Hospitalisation: reimbursements of non-contracted hospital bills, granting PR in Syria access to health facilities across the country.
  • Infectious diseases: Vaccination working well, ongoing close cooperation with WHO and PRC.
  • 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 end of August. 3,815 families received assistance this week. 115,000 applications received in July and since starting the 2nd round on 9 June 102,936 families (approx. 453,393 individuals) have received cash assistance. Emergency cash distributions taking place in Neirab camp, Aleppo for over 9,500 PR and planned for 7,000 families in Dera’a by mid-September. 38,900 PR. Final preparations under way for implementing a 3rd round of 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 27,177 food boxes to PR families in August across Damascus and Dera’a. 6 distribution centres operational in Damascus. 6500 food boxes, 8420 portions of cooking oil, nearly 3700 rations of milk, 18,000 items of canned food and 10,800 light blankets 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. Garbage collection and removal on a regular basis for PR camps and temporary collective centres. Regular maintenance of 200 UNRWA facilities and upgrading sewage systems.
  • Water: Work being conducted on wells in Neirab and Homs camp and gaining government approval for digging a new well in Hama camp. 42 water tanks installed in temporary collective centres. Tender for construction of shower units in temporary collective shelters awarded.  
  • Hygiene: Purchasing garbage bins and nylon bags. Insecticides being distributed to Yarmouk camp. Distributed chlorine tablets and sprayers in temporary collective shelters and PR camps.
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.
8,833 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. 48% are under the age of 18. Most reside in communities with host families or in rental premises mainly in Irbid, Zarqa and Amman. 207 reside in Cyber City, the government appointed facility in Irbid and 1.4% have no documentation. The majority are from Rural Damascus (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.
 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 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 care to PRS in all UNRWA clinics and referrals with full coverage to government hospitals. In July PRS made 1,419 free consultations. Mental health is also a need and caseworkers continue to refer PRS with psychosocial problems.
Relief: Over USD 1 million in emergency assistance including food and cash provided to virtually all registered PRS families since January. From January-31 July 2013 just over USD 1.2 million in cash assistance was 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: 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 training for front-line staff who detect cases. 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 intensive clashes and shelling continued throughout the week and weekend around Barzeh, Jobar and Qaboun and in several adjacent areas of Harasta, Erbeen, Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta, Ein Tarma, Kfar Batna, Saqba and Hamouriyah. In the South, intermittent and sporadic clashes and shelling all week in and around the camps of Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Douma, Ramadan and Sit Zeynab. Airstrikes reported in Yarmouk camp over the weekend although not in other camps as in the previous week. Several shells impacted the camp reportedly killing 1 PR and 2 PR were found reportedly killed following an IED in Qabr Essit the previous week. Sporadic clashes and shelling continued all week in the southwest including around Darayya, Moadhamiyeh and Khan Eshieh. Shells impacted in Khan Eshieh early week and over the weekend with reports of injuries to PR.  
Intermittent clashes and shelling continued all week in and around Yarmouk refugee camp. Several shells impacted in the camp causing the death of 1 PR. The camp remained sealed off 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 hostilities continued early week in some areas surrounding the camp including the entrance to the city, virtually cutting the city off. This became relatively calm mid-week and communications were down over the weekend. 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.  
Dera’a: Sporadic shelling and clashes early weekin areas surrounding the camp and Dera’a Al Balad but the camp remained relatively calm for most of the week. Mzerieb: Relatively calm most of the week. Jillienremainedrelatively throughout the week with the main road still blocked but the village accessible from side roads.  
Homs: Sporadic shelling of the city early week became intermittent mid-week and over the weekend. Homs camp remained relatively calm with most facilities operational despite increased checks at the entrance to the camp.
Hama: tensions remained high in the town early week following a reported VBIED targeting the governor the previous Sunday. Otherwise relatively calm for the week and over the weekend. Latakia: sporadic clashes and shelling in areas surrounding the camp throughout the week although the camp remained relatively calm.
Table 1: Number of PR and Syrian IDPs in UNRWA facilities as of 1 September


Damascus Training Centre
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
Damascus (Mezzeh)
Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Dummar)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
Damascus (Khan Dunoun Camp)
Damascus (Al Qaboun)
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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