UNRWA Commissioner-General visits Syria in solidarity with earthquake-affected Palestine Refugees

31 March 2023
Nuzha Tarawiyyeh shows the destruction in her neighbourhood to the UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini during his visit to Lattakia Palestine refugee camp in March 2023 following the devastating earthquake in Syria. (c) 2023 UNRWA Photo

Calls for urgent funding to support the Agency’s response to families in 


Download multimedia material from the visit here.



UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini visited Syria this week to express solidarity with Palestine Refugees who lost loved ones in the devastating February earthquake. He met with the Agency’s staff in Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus to thank them for their immediate response and assistance. 

“UNRWA staff in Syria showed exemplary humanitarian values,” Lazzarini said. “While many were affected by the earthquake themselves, they spared no efforts to support their community within hours. This was the UN at its best.”

UNRWA staff continue to work around the clock to respond to needs, provide assistance, including relief items, and extend psychological support.  

"Even the 12 years of grueling war did not prepare us for this,” said an UNRWA staff member in Neirab camp near Aleppo. “Those 40 seconds of the earthquake felt like 40 years of war.  We were terrified and are still traumatized."  

The deep impact on the mental health of Palestine Refugees was evident throughout the stories they told the Commissioner-General in Neirab, Ein el Tal, and Latakia camps. "Families lost almost everything including their most precious: their children. I met a mother and a father who lost their three children in the earthquake. No words can alleviate their grief and loss. The very minimum we can do now is to give them and many others empathy and assistance. While they will never forget, we must help families overcome their grief and loss,” said Lazzarini.   

The tragic earthquake added to years of shock and trauma that have afflicted Palestine Refugees in Syria. Prior to the earthquake, they were among the most vulnerable, and their situation deteriorated constantly due to 12 years of conflict, deepening poverty, loss of jobs and devaluation of the local currency.  

“For many donors, Syria is already off the radar, with multiple global crises superseding it,” said Lazzarini. “If anyone could see the immense pain and grief of Palestine Refugees, it would be impossible not to help them. We thank donors who have heeded our call for urgent funding for the earthquake and urge others to step forward and help cover financial needs under both the earthquake appeal and the 2023 Syria, Lebanon and Jordan Emergency Appeal. We cannot let people down as they endure one crisis after the other and as humanitarian needs among Palestine Refugees exponentially and rapidly increase. This is the time to help all Palestine Refugees in Syria, across lines and borders,” Lazzarini said.

During his visit, the Commissioner-General met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Dr. Faysal Miqdad, and the Director-General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees, Mr. Qasem Husein.

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Notes to Editors

  • At least 20 Palestine Refugees died, over 560 Palestine Refugee homes and nine UNRWA installations were damaged due to the February earthquake.
  • Palestine Refugees were mostly impacted in two locations: Neirab and Latakia camps.
  • Read about Nuzha Tarawiyyeh’s harrowing experience during the earthquake in Latakia here.
  • UNRWA launched an appeal for US$ 16.2 million to meet the humanitarian and early recovery needs of Palestine Refugees who were affected by the earthquake. Funding to UNRWA will allow the Agency to support affected Palestine Refugees with cash assistance, home repairs and basic essentials until August 2023.
  • In Ein el- Tal camp, the UNRWA Commissioner General visited the UNRWA al-Zeeb school which sustained severe damage during the conflict. He met with a Palestine Refugee whose house is being rehabilitated by UNRWA as part of a project to help another 110 families whose houses were in need of repairs undertaken by Palestine Refugees themselves.
  • In January, UNRWA launched an appeal to receive US$ 1.6 billion in support of its programmes and operations across the region. It appeals for US$ 232 million as part of its emergency work for Palestine Refugees in Syria. 
Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.


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