Syria humanitarian response (Issue 21)

10 December 2012

10 December 2012
Damascus, Syria

situational overview 

Commissioner-General meets IDPs with Director of UNRWA Affairs for Syria

Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi conducted a two-day visit to UNRWA staff and operations in Syria. In Yarmouk camp the Commissioner-General spoke with displaced people sheltering in one of UNRWA‘s 15 schools there. He also inspected damage to the school caused by shelling last week. He commended Palestine refugee school girls for their continued focus on their lessons, despite the ongoing shelling nearby, and paid condolences to the families of UNRWA staff members recently killed in the conflict and met with two of those families.

Grandi also held conversations with staff to learn more about the personal impact of the Syria conflict on their families and their work, and discussed with them the many operational challenges they face.

The Commissioner-General met with the Foreign Minister, the Deputy Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador, with whom he raised issues of continued humanitarian access, protection of civilians and the importance of ensuring Palestine refugees‘ neutrality. He also met with UN political and humanitarian officials and discussed ways to ensure the continuation of UN operations in the present security circumstances.

Situational overview

Palestine refugees and Syrians alike continue to seek ways to cope with their increasing humanitarian needs, caused by an escalation in violence in Syria. The security situation has led to a rising death toll among Syrians and Palestinians, widespread displacement and greater humanitarian needs.

UNRWA‘s rapid-needs assessment will inform the revision of the Agency‘s Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan. Early indications are that over 350,000 Palestine refugees require urgent assistance. This contrasts with the estimate of 225,000 that was the basis of the current Response Plan.

Currently, there are 2,366 registered Palestine refugees who have fled Syria for Jordan. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria that have approached UNRWA in Lebanon is estimated to be over 10,000 individuals.

UNRWA has received requests for emergency cash assistance from approximately 64,000 families in Syria with projections that the current rate of requests suggests that applications for assistance may well approach 100,000 families by the end of the year. UNRWA is responding to this critical need through the provision of cash assistance at a rate of approximately 1,400 households daily. UNRWA anticipates that its available resources for cash assistance will be exhausted by January 2013.

Vulnerable conflict-affected Palestine refugees are in desperate need of assistance to meet their basic food, medical, and education needs. The winter season presents additional challenges, as Palestine refugees whose homes have been damaged are more vulnerable as they lack adequate shelter during the winter months. Blankets, quilts, heating fuel, and warm clothes are needed to protect them from exposure to the cold. There is also a need to rehabilitate UNRWA facilities that are being used as temporary shelter by displaced Palestine refugees, in particular UNRWA school facilities in Syria and Cyber City in Jordan.



  • Conflict continues to escalate throughout Syria, particularly in the areas of Aleppo and Damascus, including the vicinity of Palestine refugee camps;
  • Shelling continues in Yarmouk camp and adjacent areas;
  • At least 12 refugees die due to clashes in Sbeineh, Husseiniyah and Khan Sheikh;
  • Four area staff members reported as missing, one in Aleppo and three in Damascus.

Palestine refugees and Syrians alike are desperately seeking ways to build their resilience against a rapidly deteriorating situation, particularly in the areas in Damascus/Rif Damascus and Aleppo. Despite high risks of exposure to violence, UNRWA‘s over-3,600 staff members throughout Syria are prioritising the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance such as emergency food and cash, household and winter items, and medical services.

Currently, there are 2,631 internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in eight UNRWA school buildings, marking a 9-per-cent decrease since last week. Approximately 76 per cent of the displaced population residing in UNRWA school buildings is made up of women and children.

Damascus/Rif Damascus

This week, there has been an escalation in hostilities in Damascus/Rif Damascus including Yarmouk camp and the areas of Hajar al Aswad, Tadamon, Sbeineh, Husseiniyah and Qadam. There were reports that at least 12 Palestine refugees have died due to the conflict this week alone. Earlier in the week, a vehicle-bourne improvised explosive device was defused by security forces in front of UNRWA‘s Damascus area office. Clashes and shelling also intensified around the area of Darayya, Jobar and Jaramana. For the first time since the conflict, there were reports of conflict in the Khan Sheikh camp forcing the temporary closure of facilities. There are reports that three UNRWA staff members are missing.

Despite the volatile security situation throughout Damascus/Rif Damascus, UNRWA continues to distribute emergency cash to approximately 1,400 Palestine refugees daily through bank transfers or direct distribution. The Agency aims to distribute cash assistance to an additional 28,300 vulnerable families in the coming weeks with projections that a total of 51,051 families (since the start of the conflict) will have been assisted by the end of the year.

UNRWA facilities are operational with the exception of Douma, Seita Zeinab, Husseinieh, Sbeineh and Khan Sheikh.

IDPs in two UNRWA school buildings in Damascus as of 06 December 2012











Khan Eshieh















* The IDPs in Ramadan have sought temporary shelter in private residences.


Violence continues unabated in Aleppo, particularly in the areas of Leramon, Sahur, Bustan al Qasr, Bustan al Bashar, Asha‘ar and the Old City. There has been a major disruption in electricity in Aleppo that has resulted in the non-functioning of water pumps and water shortage throughout the area. There is an escalation in conflict around Ein el Tal and Neirab camps. In Neirab, residents held a demonstration calling for the camp to be a weapons-free area and encouraging residents to turn in their weapons regardless of political affiliation.

UNRWA facilities remain operational. An area staff member of the Engaging Youth project has been reported missing since last week. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

IDPs in 6 UNRWA school buildings in Aleppo as of 6 December 2012











Ein el Tal











Clashes continued in the area of Dera‘a where there was shelling into the camp, including in front of the previous Area Office and at an UNRWA school, causing minor damage. Shelling also impacted the immediate vicinity of the village of Mzerieb and Jillien. UNRWA facilities are operational and staff distributed 2,175 food parcels in Dera‘a this week.


Humanitarian access to the city centre of Homs remains problematic, and there are reports of an escalation in shelling in the areas of Bab Amr and Akrama. There have been intermittent disruptions in electricity and communications. The main road to Hama is inaccessible due to high risk of exposure to violence; however, the roads to Damascus and Latakia remain open. UNRWA facilities are operational.


The situation in Hama remains calm, and UNRWA is preparing to distribute food rations that arrived to the area this week. UNRWA facilities remain operational.


The situation remains calm in Latakia and UNRWA facilities are operational.


There are approximately 2,366 Palestine refugees who have fled Syria into Jordan, representing an increase of 150 refugees (seven per cent) over the course of this week. Of this total number, there are approximately 209 refugees residing in Cyber City, 47 refugees in Za‘atari camp, 27 refugees at King Abdullah Park, and seven refugees in Mafraq. A total of 533 female-headed households (26 per cent) amongst Palestine refugees from Syria are currently in Jordan.

The Agency remains concerned about reported cases of refoulement of refugees attempting to cross into Jordan, and continues to liaise on such cases with the relevant authorities.


Currently, there are over 10,000 Palestine refugees from Syria who have entered Lebanon. Approximately 71 per cent of the refugees are women and children.

UNRWA is prioritising the winter needs of Palestine refugees from Syria who are in urgent need of heating fuel, warm clothes and blankets to protect them from exposure to the cold during the winter.

UNRWA remains committed to assisting Palestine refugee children from Syria in continuing their education despite displacement to Lebanon. UNRWA has organized special classes for 438 children, and an additional 299 children are continuing their education through UNRWA‘s regular education programme. In January 2013, UNRWA aims to re-introduce formal schooling for displaced Palestine refugee children from Syria based on the Syrian curriculum.

Funding needs

UNRWA is seeking USD 54 million through its revised Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and those who have fled across Syria‘s borders into neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan. The focus of UNRWA‘s response plan is Syria. The plans seeks USD 44 million for the six-month period from September 2012 to February 2013 to address pressing humanitarian needs, USD 8 million to support Palestine refugees who have fled to Lebanon, and USD 1.5 million for those currently seeking refuge in Jordan.

So far, and since the launch of the previous regional response plan earlier this year, USD 18.59 million has been received from the United States, Italy, Sweden (Sida), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) through its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Emergency Response Fund (ERF), the Bizkaia regional Spanish government, the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission (ECHO), Switzerland, Ireland, France, the Saudi Committee for the Relief of the Palestinian People and private donors. UNRWA is continuing negotiations with several donors for support to Palestine refugees affected by the crisis.

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
Help send a Palestine refugee child to school