Yarmouk, Syria: Humanitarian needs rising as residents flee fighting, seek safety in UNRWA schools

17 December 2012

As the Syria conflict and its impact on civilians continue to escalate, UNRWA is exerting all efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. Over the past several days, Syrians and the over 150,000 Palestine refugee resident in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascus, have experienced particularly intense armed engagements involving the use of heavy weapons and aircraft. Credible reports point to civilian deaths, injuries and destruction of property in Yarmouk. There are also waves of significant displacement as Yarmouk residents, including UNRWA staff and their families, scramble to seek safety as the armed conflict persists.

UNRWA is how housing over 2,600 displaced persons in its facilities and Damascus-area schools, and the number is growing rapidly. The Agency is working in coordination with humanitarian partners, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, United Nations agencies and the Danish Refugee Council to ensure that people in need have shelter, mattresses, blankets, food and other essential items.

Palestine refugees are also fleeing beyond Damascus. Although the scale and direction of this movement cannot be precisely determined, some have made their way to Lebanon. Initial reports indicate that well over 2,000 people have attempted or are attempting to enter Lebanon.

UNRWA remains gravely concerned about the safety of the Palestine refugee population in Syria and appeals to all parties to refrain from actions that endanger civilian lives and property. The Agency appreciates that the Government of Lebanon is allowing Palestine refugees from Syria to seek safety in Lebanon, and reiterates that refugees fleeing conflict must be accorded the safety and protection to which they are entitled under international law.

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 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem 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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