Almost all UNRWA installations in Yarmouk and Dera’a camp in Syria severely damaged or destroyed

01 December 2018
The Asdood/Jaleel UNRWA school in Yarmouk. The Agency has 16 school building in Yarmouk, and almost all will need to be completely rebuilt © 2018 UNRWA
The Yarmouk Health centre. All three of the Agency’s health centres in Yarmouk camp are completely destroyed. © 2018 UNRWA

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has conducted a damage assessment of its installations in the unofficial camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus, as well as the Dera’a Palestinian camp in the South of Syria. The Agency has 23 premises including 16 schools in Yarmouk. Almost all UNRWA premises need major repairs, 75% need to be completely rebuilt and all three of the Agency’s health centres in Yarmouk are completely destroyed.  In Dera’a camp, only one distribution centre has been left untouched. The other 6 installations, including three school buildings and a clinic will need substantial repairs.

People have already slowly started to return to Dera’a camp, despite the huge damage and lack of basic infrastructure. Dera’a camp was home to 10,000 Palestine refugees before 2011. So far, 400 families have returned since the government retook control in July 2018. One of those who came back is Wajiha Mohammed. The 63-year-old widow returned to her home last week, along with her two daughters and two grandchildren. Her furniture was all looted, the corrugated iron roof has bullet holes and two ceilings need to be fixed after they were hit by mortars. “I don’t know how I will pay for this, I came back to this house because I was asked to leave the unfurnished house in a safer area where I was squatting; I cannot afford to pay rent. I survive on UNRWA assistance,” she says.

UNRWA welcomes the recent decision by the Syrian government to allow Palestine refugees to return to their homes in Dera’a camp and to Yarmouk camp in future. Yarmouk was home to about 160,000 Palestine refugees before the conflict. Like in Dera’a, the vast majority of houses have been affected and all basic infrastructure has been destroyed. 

Once the government re-establishes basic infrastructure like electricity and water and ensures it is safe to enter by clearing the camp of rubble and possible unexploded remnants of war (ERW), the Agency will aim to repair UNRWA facilities that have been damaged or destroyed in order to serve the refugee population and fulfil its mandate. This was previously done with great success in other newly accessible areas following the end of fighting, such as Husseiniyeh in 2015 and Sbeineh and Khan Eshieh camps in 2017.

However, UNRWA is facing a severe funding crisis. The Agency’s 2018 Emergency Appeal for Syria is just 16 per cent funded, out of total requirements of USD 329 million. We call on the international community to provide support for UNRWA to allow the Agency to provide core services, including health services and education, to Palestine refugees in Syria who return to their homes in the camps.