Cash Assistance in Syria: A Safety Net for Palestine Refugees

31 July 2017
UNRWA Field Office, Damascus, Syria. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad

Ali al-Awad is a 70-year-old Palestine refugee from Quneitra. Before the war, he lived with his family in Moadamiyeh, south-west of Damascus. In 2013, he was forced to leave his house due to the heavy clashes that took place in that area.

“In our home in Moadamiyeh, I lived with my wife, our 12 children and my parents,” he says. “In 2012, the conflict in Syria became markedly worse; we would hear gunfire and shelling. No one would go out onto the streets. My family and I stayed in the house for days because we were afraid. Eventually, in January 2013, I took my family and sought refuge in Masaken Barzeh.”

The father of 12 is one of the 254,000 Palestine refugees in Syria who became internally displaced. He is also one of the 418,000 individuals who are completely dependent on the emergency assistance provided by UNRWA.  

UNRWA runs two emergency distribution programmes: cash and food. Contributions from donors like European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) allow the Agency to distribute cash subsidies to vulnerable Palestine refugees across Syria.

“I never expected to become reliant on another person or party to help me take care of my own family. I have always been a very proud man. I worked hard; I managed to make ends meet and provide a peaceful life for my family,” states the broken-hearted man.

“This ongoing war has shattered all our dreams,” he continues. “We feel very tired and desperate. My wife cries every day. Every day that passes is harder and harder and we lose hope of returning to our home.”

Ali is the sole provider for his family. He works as a taxi driver, but explains that it does not bring in enough income. “The cash assistance I receive on a regular basis is crucial to keep the lights on and put food on the table,” he explains. “I currently work as a taxi driver. On a good day, I get three passengers, which is not enough to meet my family’s livelihood needs. With the money I get from UNRWA, I cover the rent, fill the car with diesel, and buy food and medicine.”

In Syria, 95 per cent of Palestine refugees require emergency aid from UNRWA. In 2017, the Agency appeals for US$ 411 million for its humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, out of which US$ 329 million is planned to support the Palestine refugees remaining inside the country. In response, ECHO has donated EUR 5 million (US$ 5.4 million) in support of the Palestine refugees who are struggling inside the war-torn country. This generous contribution supports the cash assistance programme and the Agency’s quick response to unforeseen rapid-onset emergencies.

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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