The conflict in Syria has continued to become ever more complex and deadly. UNRWA has been able to continue to fulfil its mandate to assist Palestine refugees, by adapting, moving with refugees, and innovating. This annual report covers the UNRWA Syria regional crisis response from January to December 2014 and provides a detailed description of UNRWA efforts, successes, challenges and lessons learned, covering each of its three strategic priorities and each affected field of operation. The Agency's response has two main pillars: emergency humanitarian aid, mainly through cash assistance, and continued provision of UNRWA services, mainly healthcare, education and technical-vocational training and micro-finance.
The conflict. All twelve Palestine refugees' camps and all 560,000 registered Palestine refugees registered in Syria have been profoundly affected by the conflict. While a fragile calm enabled refugees to return to one camp, Qabr Essit, the conflict raged unabatedly in almost all other areas of Syria. Movement and access have become more difficult in the areas around Aleppo, Dera'a and parts of Damascus. While securing access to the thousands trapped in Yarmouk was a breakthrough in January 2014, the year ended as it began: with humanitarian access impossible. The population did not experience further mass displacement in 2014, but those displaced earlier continued to live in temporary collective shelters and alternative accommodation, many now for more than two years. The continuing violence emphasized the futility of the pursuit of military solutions in Syria. UNRWA continued to demand parties to the conflict desist from conflict in Palestine refugee camps and other civilian areas, and appeals to the parties to the conflict to peacefully seek a negotiated solution.
In 2014, all legal crossings out of Syria closed to Palestine refugees, as Syria's neighbours Lebanon and Jordan increasingly felt the strain of the crisis. Palestine refugees feel trapped, singled out and unwelcome in the region. Many choose to leave Syria by unsafe routes to Turkey and have risked their lives in unprecedented numbers at the mercy of sea traffickers. The regional protection needs of Palestine refugees are acute and urgent. Ensuring their resilience is an imperative of regional humanitarian, political and strategic importance.
Funding. The 2014 UNRWA appeal was only 53 per cent funded. Only by substantially reducing individual assistance has UNRWA been able to continue serving all those in need. The effects of underfunding are felt across all affected fields and decades of development gains, made possible by the international community, are in danger of being lost. Core services suffer a steady decline as investments are impossible and the strain of conflict wears down capacity. In 2014, cash assistance was distributed at only a portion of the minimal needs required: on average, US$0.60 per day in Syria, and roughly US$1 per day in Lebanon and Jordan.
UNRWA response. In terms of response, UNRWA has adapted, moved with refugees as the conflict permits, and innovated, to be able to fulfil its mandate to assist Palestine refugees. At the end of 2014, UNRWA estimates over 95 per cent of the 480,000 Palestine refugees remaining in Syria are in continuous need of humanitarian aid, with UNRWA more than ever a critical life-line. UNRWA introduced innovations in its cash assistance programme, making possible implementation rates of around 95 per cent, reducing distribution rounds by half, and reaching all concentrations of Palestine refugees through Agency offices and partnership with the private sector. Even though one third of UNRWA facilities in Syria have been rendered inoperable as a result of damage or active conflict, the Agency has maintained its capacity to provide services like education and health, mainly through staff courageously reporting to duty, and by innovation like opening temporary health points and producing distance learning materials.
In Lebanon, the number of Palestine refugees from Syria stabilized at 44,000, with entry effectively barred for since May 2014. Many Palestine refugees from Syria have irregular status, and live a marginalized existence, with limited movement and access to services and civil registration procedures.They are increasingly vulnerable and food insecure, and as many as 95 per cent report UNRWA cash assistance as their main source of income.
In Jordan, 15,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have been recorded with UNRWA. With a policy of non-admission remaining in place, the vast majority of Palestine refugees from Syria face increased marginalization and vulnerability. A risk faced by the majority is refoulement, of which the Agency is aware of 117 cases in 2014. In 2014, the Agency introduced vulnerability-based targeting in Jordan, and phased out in-kind assistance in favour of electronic money transfers. Funding shortfalls have meant no shelter assistance was provided for the entire year and winterization assistance was reduced.