Syria Regional Crisis Response Update 79

03 October 2014
Syria Regional Crisis Response Update 79

20 September 2014 | Issue 79

More than half a million Palestine refugees are directly affected by the conflict in Syria. The UNRWA response aims to preserve refugees' resilience through the continuation of UNRWA services and humanitarian assistance. For a more detailed overview, see the Agency's 2014 Syria regional crisis response here. This biweekly update covers UNRWA efforts from 1 to 18 September.


As children across Syria returned to school, UNRWA initiated a project emphasising the voice children have in determining their future. #myvoicemyschool is a project for refugee students to discuss their lives, education and futures with students in the UK. Over the next three months, Palestine Refugees from Syria living in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan will connect with three UK schools through live video connections, using shared lesson plans. Each class will develop a student voice project about education, working with traditional and multimedia tools. Their experiences will be shared with a network of 82,000 classrooms worldwide.

Recent weeks saw escalating violence and displacement across Syria, with continued access difficulties for Palestine refugees in Yarmouk, Khan Eshieh, villages to the west of Dera’a and other locations. Frequent recourse to armed violence interrupted life-saving humanitarian operations in Yarmouk, which remains of deep concern to UNRWA. In Dera’a, clashes and shelling have continued, with the city and surrounding areas suffering from electricity shortages, which in turn affected distribution of UNRWA cash assistance. One UNRWA staff member was killed while trying to escape clashes in Dera’a camp.

Regional overview

Of the 17 United Nations staff killed in Syria as a result of the conflict, 14 are UNRWA staff. Twenty-six UNRWA staff are currently detained or missing. Twenty-six UNRWA staff have been injured during the course of the conflict.

Displacement. Of approximately 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, over 50 per cent are estimated to have been displaced within Syria, with a further 12 per cent to neighbouring countries. In Lebanon, 44,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have been recorded with UNRWA; in Jordan 14,290 and in Gaza 860 have approached UNRWA for assistance. The Agency also received reports of around 4,000 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 $203.7 million, including $33.8 million pledged in 2013 for implementation in 2014. This amount is equivalent to 49 per cent of the total budget of the 2014 Syria regional crisis response required for January-December 2014 ($417 million).

Inter-agency. No recent developments.

Media. UNRWA Syria education messaging was mentioned in parallel to UNRWA Gaza ‘back to school’ messaging in media coverage of the new school year.  There was peripheral reporting on Palestinians, possibly from Syria, among the casualties of the capsizing boat in the Mediterranean. Although no explicit connections were made, the coverage helped highlight the difficulties many are facing as a result of the political instability and war affecting communities in the region. On a diplomatic front, the Commissioner-General’s high level meetings and visits reported in press releases have revealed renewed commitment to UNRWA including in Syria by the UAE and Russia. Otherwise, four stories on Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) living in Lebanon featured in smaller publications. Stories discussed unequal treatment of PRS with regards to residency permit renewals, tensions between PRS and Palestine Refugees from Lebanon, high cost of living – in particular rent, rumours of a reduction in the WFP food stamp value due to fund shortages, and lastly the commercial development of traditional embroidery that is providing financial and psychosocial resilience for both Palestinian and Syria refugees.


Approximately 540,000 Palestine refugees are registered in Syria. Of these, around 270,000 have been displaced inside Syria and over 70,000 to other countries. Sixteen UNRWA installations across Syria house 6,164 internally displaced persons (IDPs), of whom nine per cent are Syrians. A further 4,631 Palestinians are sheltering in other UNRWA-managed installations. 

Yarmouk. During the reporting period, UNRWA was able to distribute 2,289 food parcels and 537 hygiene kits to civilians trapped in Yarmouk. Health staff at the temporary health point treated about 1,500 patients. On nine out of 18 days, UNRWA was not able to enter Yarmouk, lately due to sporadic armed clashes and shelling in the surrounding neighbourhoods. UNRWA is deeply concerned that the recourse to armed violence frequently interrupts life-saving humanitarian operations in Yarmouk. The humanitarian situation in Yarmouk remains desperate and UNRWA appeals to all parties to do everything in their power to end the suffering of the over 18,000 civilians trapped there.



Access from outside



Jaramana (official camp)


Reports from Jaramana town suggested that the situation is very tense. Hostilities have taken place close to Jaramana camp. A health centre is operational, three schools house IDPs and three alternative schools provide classes for UNRWA students.

Khan Danoun (official camp)


The camp itself is calm, with sporadic clashes in surrounding areas. A health centre remains operational, staffed by local colleagues. Two schools house IDPs. One alternative school is used to provide classes for UNRWA students.

Khan Eshieh (official camp)

Not accessible

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. Although residents are allowed out of the camp to receive food distributions, they are not allowed to bring anything back into the camp. National UNRWA staff have kept one health centre and one health point open. One UNRWA school houses IDPs and classes are provided for students in two alternative schools.

Qabr Essit (official camp)


Qabr Essit has remained relatively calm. An agreement has been made to clear rubble from the camp and installations are being prepared for use.

Sbeineh (official camp)

Not accessible

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)

Not accessible

Yarmouk experiences regular clashes and shelling which have disrupted distribution. Access remains heavily limited.

Central area



Hama (official camp)


The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.

Homs (official camp)


The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.

Lattakia (unofficial camp)


The camp has remained calm and all facilities are operational.

North area


Ein el Tal (unofficial camp)

Not accessible

The camp remains abandoned, since residents were forcibly displaced by armed groups in April 2013, and access remains blocked.

Neirab (official camp)


The camp has remained relatively calm and all facilities are operational.

South area

Dera'a (official camp)

Not accessible

Very few civilians remain in the camp. The camp itself has been calm but its immediate vicinity continues to experience heavy armed conflict. UNRWA facilities were partially operational but lack internet and power, impeding operations.

Humanitarian response 

Education. Summer learning activities were completed in August, providing catch-up classes for 13,142 students who had missed out on regular classes during the school year and who required additional support to sit their end of year exams. Updated results will be available soon, and the new school year is set to start in mid-September.

Health. Since its opening in late July, the new temporary health point on the edge of Yarmouk was operational on 15 days during August, providing primary health care to refugees from Yarmouk. The infectious disease surveillance system continues to monitor for any new outbreaks following the typhoid outbreak in July. Fourteen primary health centres and 10 health points are currently operational in Damascus, Aleppo, Dera’a, Hama, Homs and Latakia, processing 388,000 consultations since the beginning of the year.

Emergency relief. The second round of cash distributions continues: over the course of August, a total of 25,000 refugees received $64 for two months, bringing the total number of beneficiaries reached during the second round to 432,957 until the end of August. Forty-three distribution points are operational across the country. A recent evaluation of the cash programme found that refugees now spend 75 per cent of their cash assistance on rent and food alone. UNRWA completed its second round of food distributions in mid-August, distributing 36,980 family food parcels across Syria, including Aleppo (2,875 parcels), Dera’a (626 parcels), Latakia (6,694 parcels), Hama (4,290 parcels) and Homs (3,671 parcels). Also distributed in August were 210 mattresses, 200 blankets, 40 tents, mats and cooking sets to a collective shelter in Khan Dannoun following a fire that destroyed the previous temporary shelters. In Dera'a, 3,728 light blankets were distributed in Dera’a to conflict-affected refugees.

Infrastructure and camp improvement. Emergency construction continues across Syria, including the restoration of critical services in Qabr Essit camp in Damascus. Examples of other ongoing projects are maintenance works for sewage system at Jaramana, Khan Dannoun, Khan Eshieh, Homs, Hama and Neirab Camps, and the provision of safe drinking water to the refugees at Shahaba gathering area, Khirbet Al Shayyab and Khan Dunoun camps.


In July, UNRWA conducted a comprehensive vulnerability needs assessment of all PRS recorded with the Agency in Lebanon, to facilitate better planning and utilisation of resources. Results of the assessment and follow up period indicate that there are approximately 44,000 PRS individuals in Lebanon.

Protection, legal status and advice. Stricter restrictions imposed in early May 2014 continue to deny entry to the overwhelming majority of PRS to Lebanon, including humanitarian cases and those seeking reunification with their close family. Restrictions also affect PRS already in country: PRS are unable to renew their visas beyond one year. More and more PRS remain in Lebanon irregularly and face an array of protection concerns, including limited freedom of movement and lack of access to civil registration procedures. The protection unit provides legal advice and counseling to PRS. UNRWA actively advocates on different levels and in close coordination with other UN agencies and key donors.

Emergency relief assistance. In August, the ATM-cards of 43,000 beneficiaries were credited. The monthly assistance is $30 per person for food and $100 per family for housing. The total for August was $1.25 million for housing and $1.3 million for food during two rounds of cash assistance. UNRWA has also been working closely with our partner bank and headquarters to fully automate the crediting process, bringing greater efficiencies. In August, UNRWA and the World Food Programme signed an agreement according to which WFP will fund up to 50 per cent of UNRWA monthly cash for food assistance until the end of 2014.  

Environmental health. As winter draws near, UNRWA plans to launch a nationwide winterization assistance plan beginning in October 2014 for PRS who have recorded with UNRWA. UNRWA is requesting funds to carry out critical winterization activities for PRS in the 2014-2015 winter period. Winterization assistance will be given in line with the UNRWA Cash Transfer Programme (CTP) which credits ATM cards that have been previously distributed to beneficiaries and which are given to newly arrived families on a rolling basis.

Health. Thanks to generous contributions from donors, UNRWA is covering the cost of primary health care services for PRS including medical consultations and free medications through its 27 health centres located throughout the country. The health programme is also covering the costs of secondary, and contributing towards, tertiary hospitalization for emergency and life-threatening conditions. Additionally, UNRWA provides financial support for Emergency Room Services at Palestine Red Crescent Society hospitals and partially covers these services at UNRWA contracted hospitals. Since April 2013, UNRWA has also supported PRS patients suffering from critical health conditions through services provided by the Catastrophic Ailment Relief Programme (CARE), which provides financial support to patients with costly medical procedures.

Education. There are currently 7,530 PRS students enrolled in UNRWA schools in Lebanon. Approximately 67 per cent are attending special classes for PRS and will gradually join the 33 per cent already included in regular classes at UNRWA schools. Due to severe delays in correcting the Lebanese official exams taken by students in grades 9 and 12 (BAC II) in June 2014, and following the Ministry of Education decision to grant students certificates of success, UNRWA schools are expecting a significant increase in students in grade 10 for the coming scholastic year. The Scholarships Unit has also had to adjust its application criteria to these new developments and is forecasting a large number of applicants for the 2014-2015 academic year. Further impact is expected based on upcoming decisions by Lebanese government schools in dealing with the influx of students.


In Jordan, 14,451 PRS and their families have approached UNRWA, an increase of 103 since the last report. Most PRS in Jordan live in poverty and their precarious legal status creates difficulties for civil processes, access to services and employment. Along with 169 Syrians, 201 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. The 2014/15 school year commenced in September, with a total of 2,317 PRS and Syrian children enrolled, including 183 new enrolments. Based on 2013/14 figures, this is an estimated enrolment rate of around 85 per cent of PRS children in all schools, including 54 per cent girls - the final enrolment rate for 2014/15 will be confirmed once enrolment for the new school year is complete. At this stage, no new Syrian children have been enrolled in UNRWA schools for the 2014/15 school year. 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 2,700 by the end of the year. UNRWA monitors drop-outs and offers targeted solutions to encourage families to enroll their children.

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 the first half of September 2014, PRS received approximately 439 consultations. Overall, PRS have good access to health care, with 98 per cent reporting they receive medical care when they need it.

Emergency relief. Cash assistance was provided to 975 vulnerable households (4,158 beneficiaries) totalling US$ 501,098.  NFI distribution also continued in the first two weeks of September, with plans to complete distribution by the end of September. Three thousand school kits were received from UNICEF to be distributed to PRS students.