Syria humanitarian response (Issue 13)

15 October 2012

15 October 2012
Damascus, Syria

situational overview

The humanitarian situation in Syria has remained volatile over the last week. Intense armed conflict persists in Aleppo, Deraa, and Rif Damascus. UNRWA estimates that 225,000 Palestine refugees in Syria are directly affected by the conflict. Currently, a total of 1,581 have been registered with the Agency following their displacement from Syria for Jordan. The number of Palestine refugees from Syria that have approached UNRWA in Lebanon is estimated to be approximately 7,500 individuals (1,600 households). The rate at which requests for assistance are being received suggests that those in need of assistance may soon surpass the planning figure on which UNRWA‘s Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan was based.


  • One refugee was shot and killed in rural Homs. While intensive shelling continues in the city, the camp remains relatively calm.
  • The director of UNRWA affairs in Syria, Michael Kingsley, visited Homs to assess the situation and levels of access for the delivery of humanitarian aid.
  • Intensive security operations in northwestern Rif Damascus and unrest have continued in the northeast of the city. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) was used in a complex attack on a security installation in Harasta.
  • Yarmouk and surrounding areas are relatively calm.
  • There are increasing access restrictions in the southern areas and southwestern Rif Damascus.
  • Food ration distribution continues in the north, with preparations underway for similar distributions in Aleppo city and Dera‘a.

Exposure to violence and displacement throughout Syria continue to compound the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. Food remains a critical priority for all, and non-food items included in UNRWA‘s response plan (in particular: mattresses, blankets, and cooking sets) are needed. Currently, there are 1,628 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in seven UNRWA school buildings, representing a significant decrease of approximately 48 per cent since 8 October, as many of the displaced families have returned to their homes or moved to other temporary accommodation. The displaced population residing in UNRWA school buildings is predominantly composed of women (approximately 33 per cent) and children (approximately 43 per cent).

  1. Damascus

There have been renewed clashes in the area of Jdeidet Artouz (Rif Damascus, to the southwest) and Qaboun (northeast Damascus). Security operations reportedly also continued in various other areas of northeastern Damascus / Rif Damascus with reduced intensity over the last few days. Yarmouk and surrounding areas remained relatively calm, with the exception of sporadic small arms fire in the adjacent areas of Yalda and Hajar al Aswad. Areas further south also remained relatively calm, although access to Sbeineh and Sit Zeinab was heavily restricted. UNRWA facilities are operational with the exception of Douma, which remained closed as a precautionary measure.

Currently, there are 981 IDPs sheltering in three UNRWA school buildings in the Damascus area. On 9 October, UNRWA delivered 300 food parcels to 1,300 beneficiaries in Ramadan Camp, whose residents were poverty-stricken prior to the unrest and whose poverty has deepened as a result of the conflict.

IDPs in three UNRWA school buildings in Damascus as of 11 October 2012
Khan Eshieh
  1. Aleppo

Intensified clashes continue to have an impact on parts of the city, specifically in the suburbs to the north and around the old city. Currently, UNRWA is repairing the office in the aftermath of the recent VBIED attack. Neirab and Ein al Tal camps are relatively calm, although concerns are growing over access, due to recurrent hostilities around the airport adjacent to Neirab and the presence of armed opposition elements close to Ein al Tal. UNRWA facilities remain operational in the camps.

IDPs in four UNRWA school buildings in Aleppo as of 11 October 2012
Ein el Tal
  1. Dera‘a

The situation in Dera‘a remains tense. Shelling was reported from the immediate vicinity of (but not within) the village of Mzerieb and Dera‘a camp. The area remained relatively calm and most UNRWA facilities are operational, including offices in Dera‘a, the health clinics in both Mzerieb and Dera‘a, and schools in both villages. Schools in Dera‘a camp remained closed due to the continuing low attendance of students as parents continue to refuse to risk the children‘s exposure to violence.

  1. Hama

There has been no change in the situation in Hama as the town centre is apparently calm and accessible. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

  1. Latakia

Despite the increased security presence throughout the town, including in and around the camp, the area is calm. UNRWA facilities remain operational.

  1. Homs

Throughout the week, sounds of shelling continued in the city centre. The camp remains calm and UNRWA facilities are operational. The city centre remains inaccessible and the (main) road to Hama is reportedly still blocked, although a side road is open. There were reports of the death of one refugee in rural Homs. The roads to Damascus and Latakia (although the latter not through the city of Homs) also remain open. The director of UNRWA affairs in Syria recently visited the Agency‘s facilities in the area in an effort to increase humanitarian access. A food and cash distribution for 3,500 households is planned on 21 October. The food parcels will contain oil, powdered milk, rice, sugar, lentils, beans and SYP 500 in emergency cash assistance.


Despite the volatile security situation in Syria, UNRWA maintains a network of 3,816 area staff in Damascus/Rif Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, Hama, Dera‘a, and Latakia. UNRWA staff members have played a pivotal role in the delivery of humanitarian aid to conflict-affected areas that are in grave need of assistance. Under extremely challenging circumstances, UNRWA staff, comprising 51 per cent women and 49 per cent men, are continuously adapting to the situation on the ground while coping with their own family and personal situations that have been severely affected by the conflict. It is estimated that 60 per cent of staff members are currently displaced in Syria. Since the start of the conflict, four UNRWA staff members have lost their lives, all in the Damascus area. Husam Deeb Humeidan and Abdul Aziz Mahmoud Hamouiyeh, both teachers with UNRWA since 2006, were killed in the conflict. Maher Al Khatib, a maintenance worker at the Damascus Training Centre since 1987, was killed with his son due to shelling in Yarmouk. Jihad Husein Suleiman, an UNRWA school attendant since 2007, also lost his life in the Damascus area.

There are many cases of UNRWA staff facing high risks when working in dangerous environments in order to provide life-saving services and assistance to refugees who are living in fraught conditions. One example is the case of Dr. Mahmoud Al-Faysal, a senior medical officer from Homs, who has been serving with UNRWA since 2004. Dr. Al-Faysal leads a team of 18 health-care staff in Homs, including two other doctors, a dental surgeon, nurses, medical laboratory technicians, and support staff. During intense fighting in Homs in February and March, Dr. Al-Faysal was amongst the local population forced to stay indoors for several weeks due to the high risk of exposure to violence. Following the period of intensified conflict, Dr. Al-Faysal, with the help of health centre staff, has been able to resume health care delivery in Homs, where it is estimated that approximately 300 patients are received on a daily basis.

Dr. Al-Faysal is one of the 3,816 UNRWA area staff who continue to deliver emergency health care, education, and relief services despite current instability in Syria.


There are currently a total of 1,581 registered Palestine refugees who have fled Syria for Jordan, representing a two-per-cent increase over the course of this week. Of this total number, there are 170 refugees based in Cyber City. It is estimated that the majority of Palestine refugees from Syria who have entered Jordan are women and children (77 per cent) and that approximately 61 per cent of households living outside of Cyber City are unable to meet their basic food, household, and medical needs. The number of Palestine refuges from Syria who are currently in Jordan remains relatively low; however, their protection needs are significant.

UNRWA continues to co-ordinate with international and governmental stakeholders in meeting the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees from Syria who have entered Jordan. The Agency remains concerned about reported cases of refoulement of refugees attempting to cross into Jordan, and continues to discuss such cases with the relevant authorities.


The number of Palestine refugees from Syria that have approached UNRWA in Lebanon is estimated to be approximately 7,500 individuals (1,600 households).

Over the last few weeks, UNRWA schools received 1,000 applications for admission, the majority Palestine refugee children displaced from Syria. UNRWA remains committed to providing all displaced Palestine refugee children with the educational support and protective interventions required to reduce the negative impact that displacement will have on their schooling.

On 10 October, UNRWA began offering special classes across Lebanon to accommodate displaced refugee children. The immediate priority is to provide the children with safe and child-friendly environments in which they can interact and engage in recreational and other "soft" activities, which support their psycho-social needs. UNRWA schools have been identified that are close to the areas of refuge for the children. Back-to-school kits will be provided. UNRWA education specialists are planning activities that draw on best practices in co-operation with other United Nations partners, including UNICEF and UNESCO. The UNRWA health programme will conduct medical checks of all children in attendance.

While the urgent requirement for a safe space is being met, UNRWA will prepare for the introduction of teaching. The Agency is preparing enrichment materials that focus on key competencies within the Syrian curriculum. Teaching staff and other resources are currently being mobilised for this purpose.

UNRWA will further assess the needs and learning levels of the children. Starting in January 2013 (earlier if possible), UNRWA aims to re-introduce more formal schooling for displaced children in Lebanon, building on the above competencies and enabling them to continue their education. Efforts will be made, wherever appropriate, to use multi-media to support children‘s learning.

The UNRWA Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan of USD 53 million includes USD 5,226,324 to meet the growing emergency education needs of Palestine refugee children in Syria, as well as those who are currently in Lebanon and Jordan.

current funding requirement

UNRWA is seeking USD 54 million through the revised Regional Syria Humanitarian Response Plan to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and those who have fled across Syria‘s borders into neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan. The focus of UNRWA‘s response plan is Syria. UNRWA is seeking USD 44 million for the six-month period from September 2012 to February 2013 to address pressing humanitarian needs. The Agency is also requesting over USD 8 million to support Palestine refugees who have fled to Lebanon, and USD 1.5 million for those currently seeking refuge in Jordan.

So far, and since the launch of the previous regional response plan earlier this year, USD 14.62 million has been received from the United States, Italy, Sweden, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) through its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Emergency Response Fund (ERF), the Bizkaia regional government, the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Union (ECHO), and private donors. UNRWA is continuing negotiations with several donors for support to Palestine refugees affected by the crisis.

next issue

Future issues of UNRWA‘s Syria Humanitarian Response will be distributed weekly on Fridays. Issue 14 will be published on 19 October 2012.

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

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