Syria Regional Crisis Response Update 76

23 July 2014
Palestine refugee students attend remedial classes to prepare for the 2014-2015 school year. Damascus, July 2014.

23 july 2014 | issue no. 76

More than half a million Palestine refugees are affected directly by the conflict in Syria. The UNRWA response to the crisis aims to maintain access to UNRWA services and preserve refugees' resilience through targeted relief. For a more detailed overview, see the Agency's 2014 Regional Response Plan (RRP) here. This biweekly update covers UNRWA efforts from 8 to 22 July.


In response to reports of typhoid in Yarmouk, UNRWA medical staff initiated an investigation on 19 July. Of the 12 blood samples taken from symptomatic patients, 4 samples tested positive for typhoid. Within 24 hours, UNRWA transferred typhoid medicines (antibiotics, syrups, tablets and injections) sufficient for approximately 100 patients to the Palestine Red Crescent Society for treatment of patients inside Yarmouk. Packs for a further 150 patients were distributed on 26 July. Water-purification tablets were also provided. UNRWA continues to monitor the situation and stands ready to provide all necessary medical assistance to respond to the outbreak.

Preparations are quickly progressing to fully restore services in Qabr Essit, a Palestine refugee camp 15 km from Damascus. UNRWA recently completed rehabilitation of the community centre, including a kindergarten and offices for social services, distribution and sanitation. Two water wells have been activated, with water pumps and repaired generators, with capacity to supply all needs of the camp. Rubble removal is ongoing in coordination with the authorities and local residents. Rehabilitation of a school that was moderately damaged is nearing completion and UNRWA completed the design for repair and upgrade of the second school, which was heavily damaged. Last semester, classes were given to students in three alternative locations. Qabr Essit was established in 1948 and housed around 23,700 Palestine refugees before the camp was emptied as a result of the current crisis. The camp has remained relatively calm since October 2013 and is currently accessible.

The Midyear Review of the UNRWA 2014 Syria Regional Crisis Response was launched on 3 July. The review, which can be read in full here, is marked by two conflicting developments. On one hand, UNRWA operational efficiency remains high, with the capacity to provide comprehensive and regular humanitarian assistance to all accessible Palestine refugee populations across all UNRWA areas of operation. On the other, acute underfunding is introducing severe constraints in providing an effective humanitarian response. In a briefing in Amman, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, underscored the urgency of UNRWA funding needs, describing the Syria conflict as one that has "taken a life of its own, confounding analysts and pundits and contradicting easy assumptions. But it is clear in its ultimate impact – a downward spiral for civilians.” 

Regional overview

As a result of the conflict, 12 UNRWA staff have been killed, out of a total 16 UN staff in Syria. Twenty-six UNRWA staff have been detained or missing. Twenty-six UNRWA staff have been injured. 

Displacement. Out of approximately 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, over 50 per cent are estimated to have been displaced within Syria or in neighbouring countries. In Lebanon, 53,070 PRS have registered with UNRWA. In Jordan and Gaza, 14,220 and 860 Palestine refugees from Syria respectively have approached UNRWA for assistance. The Agency also received reports of around 6,000 Palestine refugees in Egypt and smaller numbers in Libya, Turkey and East Asia.

Funding. The total pledged amount against the 2014 Response Plan stands at US$ 109.2 million, including US$ 33.7 million pledged in 2013 for implementation in 2014. This amount is equivalent to 26 per cent of the total budget of the 2014 Syria regional crisis response required for January-December 2014 (US$ 417 million). Of the total response plan, 74 per cent is budgeted for implementation in Syria, 22 per cent in Lebanon, 3.5 per cent in Jordan and 0.5 per cent for regional coordination.

Inter-Agency. UNRWA joined the warning made by UN agencies in Geneva that severe funding gaps in the response to the Syria crisis present grave risks. UNRWA is an active part of the working groups for UN-wide regional responses to the Syria crisis, which are beginning planning for 2015 after their mid-year reviews. The Agency’s own mid-ear review of its 2014 Syria Regional Crisis Response, which can be read in full here, is marked by two conflicting developments. On one hand, UNRWA operational efficiency has improved significantly, with the capacity to provide comprehensive and regular humanitarian assistance to accessible Palestine refugee populations across UNRWA areas of operation. On the other, acute underfunding is introducing severe constraints in providing an effective humanitarian response.

Media. The violence in the Gaza Strip, another UNRWA field of operations, has been covered widely in the media, overshadowing the continuing conflict in Syria. A ceasefire announced in Yarmouk on 22 June received media attention, as did UNRWA statements highlighting the need to resume access to Yarmouk.


UNRWA serves approximately 540,000 Palestinians registered in Syria. Of these, around 270,000 have been displaced inside Syria, and over 70,000 to other countries. Seventeen UNRWA installations across Syria house 7,893 internally displaced persons (IDPs), of whom 15 percent are Syrians, and a further 4,450 Palestinians are sheltered in other installations, roughly the same number as in the previous report.

Yarmouk. During the reporting period, UNRWA distributed 6,741 food parcels in Yarmouk. Distribution was only halted on two days during this period. With an average 482 parcels per day, this means the rate of distribution has been much higher than the around 100 parcels on average per day since distribution was first allowed on 17 January 2014. UNRWA also distributed 140 baby hygiene kits, vitamin packs, rehydration salts, lice treatments and a range of other food items. Since 24 July, UNRWA has also been able to provide basic health care and medicines, including care for chronic conditions and non-communicable diseases, at a temporary health point inside Yarmouk. Distribution was halted during the Eid al-Fitr period but was expected to continue on 31 July.

Area Name Population before conflict Access from outside Description
Damascus Alliance (gathering) n/a Accessible The camp remained calm and all facilities are operational.
Husseiniyeh (gathering) n/a Inaccessible It is assumed that the vast majority of Palestine refugees left the camp and all facilities remain closed.
Jaramana (official camp) 19,000 Accessible Jaramana camp and town were relatively calm. A health centre is operational, three schools house IDPs and three alternative schools provide classes for UNRWA students.
Khan Danoun (official camp) 10,000 Accessible The camp itself is calm. A health centre remains operational, staffed by local colleagues, two schools house IDPs and one alternative school is used to provide classes for UNRWA students.
Khan Eshieh (official camp) 20,000 Inaccessible The camp itself is reported to be calm, but hostilities in the surrounding areas have made the camp inaccessible. The last distribution inside the camp took place in August 2013. Though residents are allowed out of the camp to receive food distribution, they are not allowed to bring anything back into the camp. Local staff have kept a health centre and health point open, one UNRWA school houses IDPs and classes are provided for students in two alternative schools.
Qabr Essit (official camp) 24,000 Accessible Qabr Essit has remained relatively calm. An agreement has been made to clear rubble from the camp. See highlights above for more detail.
Ramadan (gathering) n/a Inaccessible The camp itself is relatively calm. One UNRWA school is operational but the health centre cannot be staffed locally and remains closed.
Sbeineh (official camp) 23,000 Inaccessible It is assumed that the vast majority of Palestine refugees have left the camp, none have so far been permitted to return and all facilities remain closed.
Yarmouk (unofficial camp) 149,000 Inaccessible Yarmouk camp is reported to be calm and distributions took place. Access remains heavily limited.
Central area Hama (official camp) 8,000 Accessible The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.
Homs (official camp) 22,000 Accessible The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.
Lattakia (unofficial camp) 10,000 Accessible The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.
North area Ein el Tal (unofficial camp) 6,000 Inaccessible The camp remains abandoned, since residents were forcibly displaced by armed groups in April 2013, and access remains blocked.
Neirab (official camp) 21,000 Accessible The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.
South Area Dera'a (official camp) 27,000 Inaccessible Very few civilians remain in the camp. The camp and its immediate vicinity continue to experience sporadic armed conflict, including the use of explosive munitions on 15 July, killing nine Palestine refugees and three Syrians. UNRWA facilities were partially operational but lack internet and power, impeding operations.
Humanitarian response

Education. Around 10,004 students participated in summer-learning activities since the beginning of July. Summer-learning activities are taking place in Aleppo, Lattakia, Homs, Hama, Dera'a and Damascus, including in Yarmouk, where 347 have been accommodated in Al-Jarmak School and are supported by UNRWA teachers and community volunteers. In the national ninth-grade exam, the average pass rate for UNRWA students nationwide stands at 84.32 per cent, with only 1.6 per cent of students dropping out of the exam.

Vocational Training. Enrolment figures have improved in the TVET programme, with 823 graduates in 2014, including 113 graduates from Homs, following the successful opening of the Homs branch of the Damascus Training Centre in October 2013. This is a 30 per cent increase from the number of graduates in 2013. Fifty-nine of the trainees are social safety-net programme recipients. Employment results are also improving, from a 25 per cent employment rate to a 35 per cent employment rate.

Health. Nine health centres are operational in Damascus, and one each in Homs, Hama, Lattakia, Neirab and Aleppo. In addition, eight health points are operational in Damascus, and one in Aleppo. These health centres have enough medicine and supplies to last until the end of October 2014. For the first time since resuming operations in Yarmouk on 18 January, UNRWA was able to transfer of a range of vaccines to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (MMR, BCG, typhoid, tetanus etc.), in particular for childhood diseases as well as for pregnant women. In addition, UNRWA has set up a temporary health point inside Yarmouk near the UNRWA distribution area, and provided primary health care treatment to a total of 1,137 patients for a range of communicable and non-communicable diseases, including typhoid and other infections, diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension, asthma and maternal care. Following the report of a typhoid outbreak in Yarmouk, UNRWA responded in 24 hours by transferring typhoid treatments (comprising antibiotics and a range of other medicines) to PCRS for use in Yarmouk. 

Emergency relief. UNRWA initiated a second round of food distribution in June. To date, a total of 70,609 food parcels have been distributed to 63,276 families across Syria (with distribution to smaller populations in Hama, Lattakia and Aleppo still pending), along with other vital non-food items. The first round of cash assistance in 2014 was completed in April, reaching over 452,000 refugees (or 113,000 families); a second round is under way since May 2014, and will have reached approximately 100,000 families by the end of the reporting period. The organization of a third round will be contingent on sufficient funding. 


In Lebanon, 53,070 PRS have registered with UNRWA. UNRWA is in the process of finalizing a comprehensive exercise of updating its records regarding the PRS in Lebanon. At this advanced stage of the exercise, and according to UNRWA estimations, the number of PRS in Lebanon is lower than the figure which has been recorded with UNRWA in recent months. The exact number of PRS in Lebanon will be shared upon completion of the exercise.

Education. The school year was extended for 5,100 PRS students from 16 June to 23 July. During the month of Ramadan (specifically from 5 to 20 July), and with the generous funding of UNICEF, the Education Department organized iftars for 6,300 PRS and PRL students, mainly grades one and two, who were accompanied by their parents. The iftars took place in 18 PRS centres distributed in the five areas of Beirut, Bekaa, North Lebanon, Saida and Tyre. During the same period, arrangements have been made to involve these children together with PRL students in summer recreational activities, due to take place from 11 to 26 August under a project funded by the EU.

Health. In the second quarter of 2014, 79,519 patient consultations took place, 957 patients were hospitalized (918 at secondary level, 39 at tertiary level), 394 patients received outpatient tests and 273 were admitted to the emergency room. Since April 2013, some PRS patients suffering from critical health conditions have been supported in covering their medical bills. Primary and secondary health care and medications are freely available to PRS at the 27 UNRWA health centres located throughout Lebanon.

Emergency relief. UNRWA provides cash assistance by crediting ATM cards issued to beneficiaries, with US$ 30 per person for food and US$ 100 per family for housing. In July, US$ 1.23 million was credited for food and US$ 1.11 million for housing assistance.   Unaccompanied and separated minors (fewer than 200) who are not entitled to an ATM card are receiving assistance in direct cash following an assessment by the UNRWA protection team.

Protection. The enhanced border restrictions introduced on 3 May 2014 continue to result in the denial of entry to many PRS seeking to leave Syria for safety in Lebanon. Restrictions on PRS visa renewals continue to impact those PRS already in country, with many unable to renew their visas for Lebanon. As a result, many PRS face an array of protection concerns including limits on their freedom of movement and the inability to complete essential civil registration procedures, including birth registration. UNRWA continues to follow up and actively engage in constructive dialogue with the Lebanese government and reiterates its calls for the borders to remain open for refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria (regardless of nationality) and for refugees to maintain legal status in the country.


In Jordan, 14,220 PRS and their families have approached UNRWA, an increase of 59 since the last report. These are largely PRS already in Jordan, but only now recording with UNRWA. Most PRS in Jordan live in poverty and their precarious legal status creates difficulties for civil processes, access to services and employment. Along with some 200 Syrians, 190 PRS are held in 'Cyber City', a government-appointed facility near Ramtha.

Education. Admission to UNRWA schools in official and unofficial UNRWA camps is open to PRS and Syrian children; 2,121 PRS and Syrian children are enrolled in UNRWA schools, an estimated enrolment rate of 85 per cent of PRS children in all schools, 54 per cent girls. Since the semester started in February, 287 new children have enrolled and 44 students graduated from grade 10 in June. The children are integrated in regular and remedial classes and follow the Jordanian curriculum. UNRWA expects the number of students from Syria enrolled in UNRWA schools to reach about 2,900 by the end of the year. UNRWA monitors dropouts and offers targeted solutions to encourage families to enrol their children. UNRWA organized a two-week summer camp activities programme for 50 children. Selected children included PRS, Jordanian hardship programme (SNN) and Syrian children of PRS mothers. These children suffer from psychological distress due to their experience with the Syrian conflict, and this programme allowed them to relieve their stress through artistic expression. This included drawing, painting, singing, and other teamwork-related activities.

Health. UNRWA continues to provide PRS with free primary health care in its 24 clinics across the country, as well as hospital referrals for emergency and life-saving care, with almost full coverage. In June 2014, PRS received a total of 1,820 consultations. Overall, PRS have good access to health care, with 98 per cent reporting they receive medical care when they need it.

Emergency relief. The final round of physical cash distributions to all PRS was completed in April, distributing over US$ 1 million to 13,543 PRS to help them meet their basic needs, particularly for food and non-food items. Forty-nine PRS families composed of 181 PRS individuals, who failed to collect their cash during April distribution, received their cash during the month of June 2014. UNRWA is piloting a new method for home visit-based socioeconomic assessments to prioritize vulnerable families for cash assistance. A specially recruited team of social workers will visit over 3,000 families in the coming months. So far, around 1,850 home visits have been conducted. One hundred forty-three PRS received emergency cash grants to address an urgent protection or humanitarian need. The first targeted cash distribution is expected to begin at early July.