Khan Dunoun Camp

As of 1 January 2018

Elderly Palestine refugees partake in an activity at the community centre in Khan Dunoun. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad
Elderly Palestine refugees partake in an activity at the community centre in Khan Dunoun. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad
Khan Dunoun camp lies near the ruins of Khan Dunoun, which was built several centuries ago to give overnight accommodation to trading caravans on the ancient route between Jerusalem and Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). In 1948, the ruins provided shelter for refugees from villages in northern Palestine.

The camp, which lies 23 km south of Damascus, was officially established in 1950-1951 on an area of 0.03 square kilometres. The camp was home to 10,000 Palestine refugees by 2011, almost all of whom were live in irregular housing, constructed without any formal approval from the municipality.

Before the conflict in Syria, Khan Dunoun was already one of the poorest camps in Syria. Most refugees worked as farm workers on Syrian-owned lands, others are wage labourers, while a few commuted to industrial plants.  

The conflict exerted additional pressures. The camp was surrounded by armed opposition groups (AOGs) and many refugee families displaced from other areas of Damascus took refuge in the camp, tripling the number of residents to some 30,000 during the crisis. Two UNRWA schools premises were converted into collective shelters to give accommodation to more than 130 families between 2012 and 2018.  Currently, the camp is home to 12,650 Palestine refugees. 

The increase of the camp population has had a negative impact on the camp’s infrastructure, affecting the electric network and the sewerage system. The camp suffers from sporadic sewage blockages due to the increased pressure on the existent sewerage system, which was designed for only 10,000 inhabitants, while there are now significantly more. Water supply resources have also been affected and the camp suffers from water shortages, especially during the summer months.

Many school children have dropped out or work after school hours to support their families. The camp also suffers from a high incidence of inherited diseases such as thalassaemia and sickle-cell anaemia. This is difficult to combat because in such a poor community marriage between first cousins is common and marriages outside the extended family are unaffordable for many.

UNRWA facilities:
  • Four double-shift schools
  • One food distribution centre
  • One health centre
  • One community centre
  • One sanitation office
Programmes in the camp:
  • Emergency assistance
  • Health
  • Education
  • Relief and social services


We provide services in 12 Palestine refugee camps in Syria. UNRWA does not administer or police the camps, as this is the responsibility of the host authorities.