Syria Regional Crisis Response Update 84

27 February 2015
UNRWA School in Husseinieh, Damascus, February 2015. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad

27 February 2015 | Issue 84 

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 2015 Syria regional crisis response here (PDF). This monthly update covers UNRWA efforts in January 2015.


With only 2 per cent funding in the pipeline for 2015, the Agency worries about the future of its emergency cash assistance programme across three fields. In Syria, only three rounds of cash assistance were distributed last year, of the six needed to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. As a result, each person received only US$ 16 per month, less than 60 cents per day. Following the first round of distribution this year, the Agency’s financial reserves in Syria are dangerously low, putting 470,000 vulnerable people at risk of losing all support. In Lebanon, cuts seem inevitable, with received funds expected to run out in May. Without substantial funding, rent subsidies of US$ 100 per family will be stopped, which is a difficult decision as Palestine Refugees from Syria (PRS) in Lebanon are increasingly vulnerable and the vast majority do not have legal status in the country. In Jordan, funding shortfalls have already caused gaps in humanitarian assistance. No shelter assistance could be delivered in January or February, following unmet needs throughout 2014. An immediate cessation of cash assistance was prevented by last-minute confirmation of new funding for food and NFI assistance. However, no funding has been secured for this assistance beyond April.

During a three-day visit to Lebanon, Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl briefed media on the worsening conditions for Palestine refugees in Syria, including price rises, severe winter and the desperate humanitarian condition in places such as Yarmouk. The Commissioner-General acknowledged the immense pressure Lebanon has been under due to the influx of refugees from Syria and urged authorities to continue recognizing the grave humanitarian situation faced by the 44,000 Palestine refugees who have fled Syria for Lebanon. 

It has been over two months since UNRWA completed a successful humanitarian food and aid distribution in Yarmouk. Since 6 December 2014, UNRWA has only been able to deliver 76 food parcels in total. There is no electricity and there has been no steady supply of water since September 2014. Most civilians cannot meet essential needs such as health care, household items, adequate shelter and heating. The desperate humanitarian situation has worsened as sniper fire, mortar impacts and heightened insecurity have prevented UNWRA from distributing life-saving aid. In this harsh winter, people have been burning clothes and furniture in an effort to stay warm. UNRWA kicked off its first campaign of the year in support #SaveYarmouk.

Regional overview 

Of the 17 United Nations staff killed in Syria as a result of the conflict, 14 are UNRWA staff. Twenty-eight UNRWA staff are currently detained or missing and 26 others have been injured during the course of the conflict.

Displacement. Of approximately 560,000 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, close to 15,000 and in Gaza around 1,000 people 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 2015 appeal outlines the need for US$ 415.4 million to meet the minimum needs of Palestine refugees suffering as a result of the conflict in Syria. So far, only 2 per cent of this year's appeal has been funded. The 2014 appeal was only 53 per cent funded, of a budget already cut to the bone.

Interagency. The 3RP (covering UNRWA operations in Lebanon and Jordan) can be found on and the SRP (covering the whole of Syria) here.

Media. The UNRWA Syria crisis response received the most media coverage over its messaging on the worsening humanitarian conditions in Yarmouk and Lebanon border restrictions. This resulted from the dissemination of a Reuters interview with the Commissioner-General and the distribution of UNRWA-produced multi-media content from Yarmouk.  Otherwise, Palestine refugees featured in two media narratives that did not mention UNRWA. The first narrative related to Lebanon’s new border restrictions. The second was a Guardian feature about a Palestine refugee from Syria running an Egyptian smuggling ring used by refugees seeking asylum via the Mediterranean. 


Approximately 560,000 Palestine refugees are registered in Syria. Of these, around 280,000 have been displaced inside Syria and over 80,000 to other countries. Thirty-seven UNRWA-managed installations across Syria house 11,291 internally-displaced persons, of whom 23 per cent are Syrian.

Yarmouk. It has been over two months since UNRWA completed a successful humanitarian food and aid distribution in Yarmouk. Since 6 December 2014, UNRWA has only been able to deliver 76 food parcels in total. Approximately 400 food parcels are required each day to meet the minimum food needs of this extremely vulnerable population. UNRWA continues to call for cooperation with concerned actors, for the immediate cessation of armed hostilities in and around Yarmouk, and for all parties to promote the protection of Yarmouk civilians and give priority to their humanitarian needs. Go to the UNRWA Yarmouk crisis page for the latest updates. 




Access from outside



Jaramana (official camp)


Relatively calm. Three schools house IDPs and three alternative schools provide classes for UNRWA students.

Khan Dunoun (official camp)


Relatively calm. A health centre remains operational, staffed by colleagues from the camp. Two schools house IDPs and one alternative school is used to provide classes for UNRWA students.

Khan Eshieh (official camp)

Not accessible

Mortar shelling and clashes reported in the surrounding areas of Khan Esheikh and armed elements remain present in the camp. The last distribution inside the camp took place in August 2013. UNRWA staff living in Khan Esheih 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)


Remained calm. One school and a community centre have been reopened, and other installations continue to be prepared for use.

Sbeineh (official camp)

Not accessible

Calm, though the vast majority of Palestine refugees have left the camp and none have been permitted to return; all facilities remain closed.

Yarmouk (unofficial camp)

Not accessible

No distribution took place due to ongoing clashes and shelling.

Central area



Hama (official camp)


Calm and all facilities are operational.

Homs (official camp)


Calm and all facilities are operational.

Latakia (unofficial camp)


Calm and all facilities are operational.

North area


Ein el Tal (unofficial camp)

Not accessible

Conflict intense in January. Residents were forcibly displaced by armed groups in April 2013.

Neirab (official camp)


Relatively calm.

South area

Dera'a (official camp)

Not accessible

Calm, if difficult to reach from Damascus. UNRWA facilities are operational.

Humanitarian response

Emergency relief. UNRWA is presently short US$ 2  million to complete its first cash distribution round of 2015 in Syria, putting 30,000 people at risk of not receiving cash assistance. Cash assistance is the most important emergency intervention that the Agency provides to Palestine refugees throughout Syria. Through 30 distribution points across the country, UNRWA is able to reach 470,000 refugees in two months, including in hard-to-reach areas. With the last remaining funds, UNRWA continued its current round of food parcel distributions, reaching 39,723 families in Damascus, Dera’a, Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Homs. Each food parcel provides a family with 700 kcals per person for one month, and helps mitigate some of the effects of inflation across Syria.

Education. With the facilitation of the Syrian authorities, UNRWA transported 67 students out of Yarmouk to sit their national school exams. During the exams, the Agency provided health check-ups, accommodation and small stipends to support the students. UNRWA continues to provide primary education to over 46,000 Palestine refugee students in Syria in 48 UNRWA schools and 47 alternative schools.

Health. UNRWA provides health services to up to 480,000 Palestine refugees throughout Syria. The Agency currently operates 14 health centres, 11 health points and one temporary health point in Yarmouk when the Agency can enter the area safely. The temporary health point in Yarmouk has not operated due to the degradation of security in the area.

Shelter assistance. UNRWA is housing 11,291 Palestine refugees and internally-displaced Syrians in 30 UNRWA-managed collective shelters in Damascus and its surrounding areas. In Aleppo, Hama and Latakia, UNRWA is supporting 1,806 displaced persons in UNRWA-managed installations. Throughout Syria, collective shelters are home to 139 new-born infants, 158 persons with disabilities and seven unaccompanied children. In all shelters, UNRWA provides regular health and social services, maintenance and upgrading of WASH facilities, as well as regular food and NFI distributions. 

WASH. In January, the Agency distributed 1,870 hygiene kits and 1,747 diaper packs to refugees in collective centres, in addition to 49 hygiene kits distributed to Yarmouk students when they returned home after their exam. Each hygiene kit contains enough soap, shampoo, disinfectant, washing detergent and other sanitary items to last a family of four for one month. UNRWA also conducts regular maintenance, garbage collection, plumbing and sanitation work in all accessible facilities, camps and gatherings. 


Around 44,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have been recorded by UNRWA in Lebanon, all of whom continue to have access to UNRWA programmes in Lebanon.

Emergency relief. UNRWA is the lead agency and main provider of humanitarian assistance to PRS in Lebanon. Since February 2014, UNRWA has distributed cash assistance to PRS on a monthly basis. In January, 43,199 beneficiaries were credited, totalling US$ 1.28 million for food and US$ 1.18 million for housing. Since August 2014, UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP) have partnered to provide cash assistance for food to PRS, recently extended their partnership through March 2015. WFP funds up to 50 per cent of the monthly UNRWA food crediting. UNRWA transitioned to vulnerability-based assistance following a vulnerability assessment and headcount conducted in July 2014. The majority of PRS remain eligible for UNRWA cash assistance and are eligible for monthly assistance allocated on the basis of US$ 30 per person for food and US$ 100 per family for housing, pending availability of funds.

Protection. The restrictions imposed by the Lebanese government in early May 2014 continue to result in the denial of entry to most PRS fleeing Syria for safety in Lebanon, and creates uncertain legal status for PRS already in the country. UNRWA monitors the implementation of the announcement that PRS with expired visas can regularize their status free of charge for three months, noting that this is being applied inconsistently throughout the country. Many PRS did not approach the authorities for fear of arrest and deportation. Since 31 December 2014, which corresponds to the end date of the similar circular for Syrians, UNRWA has identified very few successful renewals of PRS residencies. 


A total of 15,072 Palestine refugees and their family members had approached UNRWA for assistance as of 31 January. This is an increase of 269 since the end of 2014.

Emergency relief. In 2015, the focus of UNRWA humanitarian relief is to prevent further erosion of the resilience of PRS by supporting their basic needs: food and NFI, shelter, and winterisation cash assistance, as well as one-off emergency cash grants. A household vulnerability assessment was conducted in 2014, the results of which informs vulnerability-based targeting. Approximately 81 per cent of PRS are categorized as most vulnerable, with 43 per cent extremely vulnerable. A beneficiary appeals mechanism is being implemented as of late 2014 to minimize exclusion errors in targeting and to promote accountability to beneficiaries. To date, approximately 150 appeals have been reviewed.

Essential food and NFI assistance was delivered to 11,636 of the most vulnerable PRS in January, covering one-and-a-half months. To date, UNRWA has no other confirmed funding; without urgent donor contributions, assistance may have to be suspended from March. Shelter assistance could not be delivered in January, or throughout 2014, due to critical funding shortfalls. Winterization assistance was delivered to all PRS households in December 2014, however, the package was reduced due to funding shortfalls. Donor contributions to cover the remaining unmet need for the last winter season are urgently sought. Emergency cash grants were delivered to 18 families in January. This is an important tool to protect the resilience of households faced with a major crisis (e.g. eviction), and is followed up by UNRWA social workers to provide non-financial support.

Protection. UNRWA has already recorded two cases of refoulement, involving seven PRS, in January. UNRWA is also concerned about the upcoming ‘urban re-registration/verification process’ scheduled by the Ministry of Interior Affairs with the support of UNHCR for February 2015. The purpose of the process is to issue all Syrian refugees with new service cards, requiring an iris scan, which will allow the holder continued access to health and education services in Jordan. It is feared that the process may also lead to the identification and increased risk of deportation of PRS with unclear legal status in host communities. 

January 2015 has seen the welcoming of the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) team into the newly-reinforced Protection and Neutrality Unit. The move will facilitate internal referrals, strengthen communication and enhance case tracking and follow-up between GBV Lead Focal Points, Protection Social Workers and members of the newly-expanded Protection and Neutrality Unit. On January 11, the Irbid community was engaged by an UNRWA GBV Lead Focal Point and school counsellor in awareness-raising for sexual abuse. Over 150 male youths between the ages of 16 and 19 volunteered their time to take part in the session. Further work will take place in 2015 towards integrating PRS within existing GBV and protection responses and to adapt the response to those particular needs of PRS that were identified in the protection assessment at the end of 2014.

Education. In the current academic year, 1,696 children from Syria are enrolled in 141 UNRWA schools. In January, UNICEF agreed to contribute US$ 128,000 to support Syrian students enrolled in UNRWA schools in the 2013-2014 academic year or earlier. UNRWA continues to worry for approximately 800 Syrian children who applied to UNRWA schools but could not be admitted. Through an Education-in-Emergencies project, funded by Educate a Child, psychosocial support counsellors are delivering recreational and psychosocial support activities to children from Syria; recreational kits (including sport and art kits) have also been provided to 39 schools. In addition, in coordination with the UNRWA Safety and Security Division, schools in high-risk areas in Jordan have begun evaluating evacuation plans, fire drills, and training education staff in risk-management.

Health. UNRWA is ensuring all Palestine refugees from Syria have access to the health care they require. Primary health care is delivered in the 23 UNRWA health centres, one health point and four mobile dental clinics. In January, there were 1,075 PRS visits to UNRWA health centres. Patients requiring secondary or tertiary health care are referred to external health care providers, and their costs are fully covered by UNRWA.