As the violence in Syria continues to cause massive displacement and a sharp increase in deaths and injuries, the living standards of conflict-affected Syrians and Palestine refugees alike have resulted in urgent humanitarian needs, particularly for food, non-food/winter items, and medical services. It is estimated that over 400,000 of the 525,000 Palestine refugees in Syria are in need of assistance. An additional 18,000 Palestine refugees have fled Syria for Lebanon, 8,000 of which have arrived within the last month due to clashes and an escalation in conflict in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus. There have also been reports of an increase in the total of refugees crossing the Syria-Jordan border, with UNRWA officials reporting nearly 3,349 individuals.
Hostilities intensified southwest of Damascus, particularly in the areas around Darayya, Husseiniyah, Sbeineh, Seita Zeinab, Yarmouk as well as throughout large parts of northeastern Damascus and the surrounding areas;
Clashes and shelling reported in the vicinity of Dera‘a camp, with a vehicle-bourne improvised explosive device (VBIED) injuring an UNRWA staff member on 18 January;
A large number of explosions reported in the city of Aleppo. The university was targeted resulting in the death of more than 80 individuals, including one refugee;
8,480 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are sheltering in 14 UNRWA facilities in Syria;
Area of operation:
Despite the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, UNRWA continues to deliver humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Palestine refugees. Since the start of the conflict in March 2011, UNRWA‘s network of over 3,600 area staff members has provided 28,652 food parcels, 7,399 mattresses, 12,759 blankets, and cash assistance for 54,040 families. Particular attention has been paid to vulnerable groups in need of blankets and quilts to cope with the cold winter season.
Delivering life-saving emergency health care to Palestine refugees
"We don‘t know what will happen tomorrow", said Dr. Husam Tibi, Chief of UNRWA‘s health programme in Syria, describing the challenges that he faces in managing 23 health centres that deliver emergency services to Palestine refugees. His job is becoming increasingly difficult due to the affects of the continued violence on health centres, eight of which are temporarily closed due to the situation. According to Dr. Tibi, major obstacles to delivering life-saving health care include: civil strife that restricts access to health centres and contracted hospitals, in addition to the difficulty in procuring and transporting medical supplies. To respond to the crisis, UNRWA opened temporary health points that offer services to Palestine refugees who are sheltering in UNRWA facilities. Health staff members assist thousands of IDPs in these facilities, including 78 pregnant women, 13 of whom are due to give birth soon. Since the start of the conflict, UNRWA has assisted with the birth of nine babies in facilities used as temporary shelter.
UNRWA health staff members continue to deliver life-saving services despite coping with their own desperate situations. Dr. Tibi points to the high cost of living and limited access to supplies that are having a negative impact on health services and staff. "Some of the health staff have also been displaced and are now sheltering in UNRWA facilities. Despite their growing problems, they continue to assist the IDPs, delivering services where needed", says Dr. Tibi. In one example at the UNRWA Damascus Training Centre (DTC), two nurses, themselves IDPS, are currently assisting the 1,500 IDPs at the DTC.
In addition to the problems above, Dr. Tibi also points to logistical problems in the health centres. For example, the Agency has had difficulty finding petrol, resulting in a number of staff members running out of fuel on the way to the health centres.
UNRWA health staff in Syria continues to do its best to deliver aid and assist vulnerable Palestine refugees needing emergency health care. Despite the difficulties caused by on-going violence, Dr. Tibi says that UNRWA health staff will continue to do their best to assist the most vulnerable Palestine refugees who desperately need emergency health care.
IDPs in four UNRWA facilities as of 20 January**:
Damascus Training Centre
Damascus (Jaramana Camp)
Damascus (Khan Eshieh Camp)
Damascus (Ramadan Camp)
Damascus (Rukn Eddin)
Damascus (Khan Dannoun Camp)
Aleppo (Neirab Camp)*
Aleppo (Ein el Tal Camp)*
*Aleppo numbers correct as of 6 December
**Approximately 1,700 Palestine refugees sheltering in five non-UNRWA schools in Qudsaya, Khan Eshieh and Khan Dannoun. An estimated 1,200 Palestine refugees have been identified in Hama Camp, having come from Yarmouk and Ein el Tal. 2,600 refugees have made themselves known to UNRWA in Homs Camp, having fled from Aleppo, Damascus and Homs countryside. 1,300 refugees have made themselves known to UNRWA in Lattakia, having fled from Yarmouk and Ein el Tal. (Total: 6,800)
Damascus and the surrounding area:
Clashes continue in the vicinity of Yarmouk camp, home to the majority of Palestine refugees in Damascus, particularly around the northern entrance to the camp extending down Palestine Street towards the municipality building. Armed elements and security forces are present within and in the immediate vicinity of the camp. Access to the camp is limited with no commercial traffic at the moment. Threats of exposure to violence in Yarmouk have resulted in estimates that 70 per cent of the population has fled the camp. Due to insecurity, all UNRWA facilities are temporarily closed in Yarmouk. Sporadic shelling also continues in surrounding areas such as Tadamon, Yalda, Hajar al-Aswad and Qadam with reports of the death of at least one refugee.
An escalation in violence in Sbeineh, Darayya, Husseiniyah, Qbr Essit and Seita Zeinab has forced has forced the flight of significant numbers of Palestine refugees from those areas. In Seita Zeinab, it is believed that only 10 per cent of the population remains while in Sbeineh, approximately half of the population of Palestine refugees have fled the area. There are reports of the death of four refugees in the area.
The situation in Aleppo remains tense with on-going shelling impacting Bustan al Qasr, Leramon, and the Old City. In Neirab, there is high risk of exposure to violence as shelling continues in the adjacent airport. Travel between Neirab and Aleppo city is possible. UNRWA facilities are operational and are currently focused on the distribution of cash to Palestine refugees in Neirab.
This week, two VBIEDs detonated in the area of the camp causing and unconfirmed number of deaths and injuries. At least one UNRWA teacher was injured in the incident. UNRWA facilities remain operational.
Sporadic clashes continue in Hama, but all UNRWA facilities are operational.
Intensive shelling (including the use of aircraft) continues in Homs particularly in the areas of Bab Amr and Sultaniyeh. Homs camp has been experiencing major electricity-cuts with electricity available for only 20 minutes daily. UNRWA facilities remain operational despite on-going violence in the vicinity of the camp.
Latakia is calm and all UNRWA facilities operational in the area. The main road to Hama remains inaccessible, although residents are using a side road that is still open. Roads to/from Damascus and Latakia are open
Palestine refugees and Syrians alike continue to flee violence in Syria for Jordan. The latest figures indicate that an average of 3,000 refugees enter Jordan daily, with the exact number of fleeing Palestine refugees unconfirmed. Currently, there are 3,349 registered Palestine refugees from Syria in Jordan. Of this total, 221 of them live in Cyber City. UNRWA social workers and the protection team continue to monitor the situation including confirmed reports of refoulement of Palestine refugees at the Jordan-Syria border.
Faris‘ Story from Cyber City
For most people, life is a battle. For some, it is a series of seemingly endless battles. This is especially true for Palestine refugees. Originally from Hebron, Kamila and her family were forcibly displaced, first to Jordan, and then to Syria. Kamila‘s husband Adnan was also displaced before the two married. Together, they have six children, raising them in Dera‘a in southwestern Syria. In 2000, their 4-year-old son Faris was diagnosed with Hogkin‘s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue. Faris was able to receive free medical assistance in Damascus. To date, he has undergone 30 chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. He was doing well and was told to expect a 90 per cent chance of full recovery.
The positive news quickly became a nightmare when the conflict in Syria erupted, having a negative impact on the family. Despite efforts to remain in Syria, the risk of exposure to violence made it nearly impossible for Faris to travel to Damascus. As the violence increases, exposure to smoke from heavy clashes and explosives resulted in the deterioration of the young boy‘s health. Fleeing Syria, the family left to Jordan and has been sheltering in Cyber City since 17 March 2012. 17-year-old Faris and his parents are living in Jordan without an income. Upon discovering that Faris had a relapse, the family became desperate for help, calling on UNRWA to assist their son. The Agency delivered, and to date, has donated roughly JD 3,600 to help him. An additional JD 1,200 is required to cover his medical expenses. The family has expressed immense gratitude for the assistance already given, saying: "We can only be thankful our situation is not as bad as that of others."
Violence in Syria has forced 18,000 Palestine refugees from Syria to flee to neighbouring Lebanon. These refugees, the majority of whom have fled Yarmouk camp, are entirely dependent on UNRWA for social, education and health services. UNRWA is offering formal schooling as part of its emergency education programme. Currently, there are 1,990 Palestine refugees students from Syria who attend classes in Lebanon.
Syria crisis response funding update:
UNRWA is seeking USD 91.2 million through its regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and to those who fled to Lebanon and Jordan. The plan seeks USD 75.08 million for the six-month period from January 2013 to June 2013 to address pressing humanitarian needs in Syria, USD 13.29 million to support Palestine refugees who have fled to Lebanon, and USD 2.86 million for those currently sheltering in Jordan. So far, USD 5 million has been pledged and partially received from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) through its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Emergency Response Fund (ERF), from the Valladolid regional Spanish government, the UK‘s Department for International Development (DFID) and private donors. UNRWA is continuing negotiations with several donors for support to Palestine refugees affected by the crisis.
USD 28.9 million were pledged and partially received against UNRWA‘s previous Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan which appealed for USD 53.8 million until December 2012. .
For more information, please contact: Uta Filz | m: +972 54 240 2737 | e: [email protected]