SYRIA REGIONAL CRISIS RESPONSE UPDATE 83
More than half a million Palestine refugees are directly affected by the conflict in Syria. The UNRWA response aims to preserve refugees' resilience through the continuation of UNRWA services and humanitarian assistance. For a more detailed overview, see the Agency's 2015 Syria regional crisis response here. This monthly update covers UNRWA efforts in December 2014.
The last successful UNRWA distribution mission to Yarmouk was on 6 December. Since then, distribution has been prevented due to a serious escalation in armed conflict, including heavy exchanges of fire and the use of heavy weapons. The deterioration of security in Yarmouk mirrors an intensification of fighting across Syria. Only 636 food parcels were distributed throughout December, a fraction of the 400 reqACuired daily to sustain the 18,000 civilians still trapped in Yarmouk. UNRWA monitors the security situation in Yarmouk closely, stands ready to resume distribution and continually requests relevant authorities to facilitate humanitarian assistance. To keep up to date with the situation in Yarmouk, please click here.
Accompanying this update is a photo from Yarmouk that won the UNRWA/EU photograph competition. The winning photographer, 23-year-old Niraz Saied from Yarmouk, captured the anguish of three siblings waiting for a medical evacuation. In his words: “You can’t find a complete family in the refugee camp. I used to feel that in every portrait of a Palestinian family you could see the shadow of a person missing." The competition theme 'I Am Not a Statistic', called on participants to capture the stories and emotions behind news headlines, making personal the numbers of Palestinians killed, wounded and displaced by conflicts throughout the region.
The 2015 UNRWA appeal for the Syria regional crisis was published on 18 December. In it, UNRWA estimates that in 2015, 95 per cent of the 480,000 Palestine refugees remaining in Syria are in continuous need of humanitarian aid. "In the midst of the countless human tragedies unfolding in the country, the plight of the Palestine refugee community must not be underestimated or forgotten,” said UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General, Margot Ellis. “There is no substitute to a political solution to the conflict, not only in Syria, but also for Palestine itself. But until that day comes, we need to make sure no Palestine refugee feels left behind or forgotten.” The appeal outlines the need for $415.4 million to meet the minimum needs of Palestine refugees suffering profound hardship as a result of the conflict in Syria, in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
At the end of the year, only 53 per cent of the 2014 UNRWA appeal was funded and UNRWA had to reduce individual assistance to continue serving all those in need. If funding levels continue to decline, critical efforts in emergency education and health care will cease, and cash assistance – the central pillar of the UNRWA humanitarian response – will be threatened. Decades of development gains made possible by the international community are in danger of being lost. A report on the 2014 response will be published in April.
Of the 17 United Nations staff killed in Syria as a result of the conflict, 14 are UNRWA staff. Twenty-eight UNRWA staff are currently detained or missing and 26 others have been injured during the course of the conflict.
Displacement. Of approximately 560,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, over 50 per cent are estimated to have been displaced within Syria, with a further 12 per cent to neighbouring countries. In Lebanon, 44,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have been recorded with UNRWA; in Jordan close to 15,000 and in Gaza around1,000 people have approached UNRWA for assistance. The Agency also received reports of around 4,000 Palestine refugees in Egypt and smaller numbers in Libya, Turkey and East Asia.
Funding. On 31 December, the total pledged amount against the 2014 Response Plan stood at US$222.7 million, including US$33.6 million pledged in 2013 for implementation in 2014. This is equivalent to 53.3 per cent of the total budget of the 2014 Syria regional crisis response required for January-December 2014 (US$417 million). The 2015 appeal outlines the need for US$415.4 million to meet the minimum needs of Palestine refugees suffering as a result of the conflict in Syria.
Inter-agency. On 18 December in Berlin, humanitarian actors active in Syria and neighbouring countries launched the Syria Response Plan (SRP) and the Refugee Resilience Response Plan (3RP), which includes the UNRWA appeal covering the Agency's response in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The 3RP can be found on www.3rpsyriacrisis.org and the SRP here (PDF).
Media. In December, media profiled the vulnerability of Palestine refugees caused by multigenerational statelessness, double displacement and the feeling of being unwelcome in neighbouring countries. In the second half of the month, the focus shifted to refugees in Lebanon (including Palestine refugees from Syria) and on the impact of the cold weather on children and the elderly in the Beka’a Valley. Articles reported on Lebanese resentment of the influx of Syrian and Palestine refugees who are increasingly blamed for the economic and political insecurity in the country.
Approximately 560,000 Palestine refugees are registered in Syria. Of these, around 280,000 have been displaced inside Syria and over 80,000 to other countries. Thirty-seven UNRWA-managed installations across Syria house 12,679 internally displaced persons, of whom 23 per cent are Syrian.
Yarmouk. In December, only 636 food parcels, 635 hygiene kits and 629 jerry cans of drinkable water were distributed. The last successful distribution was on 6 December, after which only three missions were attempted (on 11, 12 and 25 December) each time interrupted by clashes. The temporary health point set up during distributions was able to treat 280 patients and 4,000 polio vaccines doses were provided. Approximately 400 food parcels are required each day to meet the minimum food needs of this extremely vulnerable population. In 2014, on days when all concerned actors cooperated fully to give priority to meeting the food needs of civilians in Yarmouk, UNRWA was capable of distributing up to 1,000 food parcels per day. To stop the suffering of Yarmouk’s civilians, UNRWA calls for this level of cooperation to resume, for the immediate cessation of armed hostilities in and around Yarmouk, and for all concerned parties to act in ways that promote the protection of Yarmouk’s civilians and give the utmost priority to their humanitarian needs.
Education. A new course in recycling, funded by the EU, trains students to repurpose recyclable goods and teaches about the handicraft industry and recycling in general. Douaa al-Masri from Yarmouk lives with her family at the Damascus Training Centre, which doubles as a collective shelter. “Because we now live at the Damascus Training Centre, I thought it would be good to make something useful,” Douaa said. She made a papier-mâché lamp with circular holes, painted orange and brown. To read more stories from students and the impact of the course, please click here.
Health. The Agency currently operates 14 health centres and 12 health points.
Emergency relief. The third round of cash assistance, which began in September 2014, was finalized in early December. During this round, cash assistance was provided to 470,382 persons (118,775 families). Thirty distribution points are operational across the country, enabling refugees in hard-to-reach areas to receive this vital assistance. A recent evaluation of the cash assistance programme found that refugees spend a combined total of 71 per cent of their cash assistance on rent and food alone. A new round of cash assistance will begin early 2015, after which the Agency's coffers will be empty. In 2014, only half the rounds of cash assistance planned were possible. Renewed funding is urgently required to not abandon assistance at a time when conflict is flaring up and refugees are most vulnerable.
Infrastructure. Emergency reconstruction, including the restoration of UNRWA services, continues in the Qabr Essit camp in Damascus. Examples of other ongoing activities are in Khan Dunoun, where UNRWA is renovating a health centre and conducting maintenance on a pumping station. In Hama camp, two schools are undergoing reconstruction. In Latakia, expansion of a Women’s Programme Centre remains underway, as does the renovation of sanitation facilities in Jaba’a Atleet school. Other maintenance and renovation is taking place in Homs, Jaramana and Neirab camps. In Neirab in December a reconstructed school building was opened.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. In December, the Agency distributed 3,401 hygiene kits, including inside Yarmouk and 2,766 kits inside collective shelters in Damascus. Each kit provides enough soap, shampoo, disinfectant, washing detergent and other sanitary items to last one month for a family of four. UNRWA also continued maintenance, garbage collection, plumbing and sanitation for all 37 collective shelters, 42 operational schools, 14 health centres and 11 health points.
Shelter. Many refugees have been forced to live in shelters for more than two years, since 2012, when many camps and gatherings were engulfed in armed conflict. In December, over 26,000 hot meals were provided to refugees in collective shelters in the Damascus area. 139 newborn infants – many of whom were born in the shelters – currently live in the shelters, in addition to 158 persons with disabilities and seven unaccompanied children.
Around 44,000 Palestine refugees from Syria have been recorded by UNRWA in Lebanon, all of whom continue to have access to UNRWA programmes in Lebanon.
Emergency relief. The cooperation between UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP) has been extended through March 2015. Since August 2014, WFP has, subject to the availability of funds, funded up to half of the monthly UNRWA food assistance. In December, 42,800 beneficiaries were credited on their UNRWA ATM card, with a total of $1.27 million for food and $1.19 million for housing. The Agency transitioned to vulnerability-based assistance following a vulnerability assessment and headcount conducted in July 2014. The majority of PRS remain eligible for UNRWA monthly cash assistance of $30 per person for food and $100 per family for housing, pending availability of funds. Unaccompanied and separated minors receive assistance in hard cash, rather than via ATM cards, following an assessment by the UNRWA protection team.
Protection. The restrictions imposed by the Lebanese government in early May 2014 continue to limit entry of Palestinians fleeing Syria and cause uncertainty for those already in the country. UNRWA has received reports of inconsistencies in the implementation of a circular offering Palestinians the opportunity to regularize their status, free of charge, for a period of three months; some Palestinians were refused renewal. UNRWA has been able to confirm that Palestinians staying in Lebanon irregularly have been permitted to leave Lebanon without having to pay the annual visa renewal fee upon departure. Nevertheless, no announcement has been issued in this regard by the authorities. Palestinians leaving thus are banned from re-entering Lebanon for up to six months.
To mark the UN Secretary General’s 'United to End Violence Against Women' Campaign, UNRWA organized a series of discussion groups around the interactive play 'A Grain of Wheat'. The play addresses perceptions about gender roles and responsibilities. The campaign, which was implemented in partnership with the Women’s Programme Association, reached over 200 young Palestinian men, including Palestine Refugees from Syria. The UNRWA programme to prevent and respond to gender-based violence is funded by the United States Government.
Education. As of December 2014, approximately 6,600 Palestinian students from Syria were enrolled in 60 UNRWA schools throughout Lebanon. UNRWA has merged classes in six of 14 schools so that many PRS students who have been attending special afternoon classes have joined their classmates from Lebanon in regular morning classes. To facilitate this integration, additional learning support teachers are helping students adapt to the new class formations. UNRWA continues to employ additional teachers to support students from Syria and to provide supplementary services.
In December, UNRWA schools celebrated Human Rights Day to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly. Under the leadership of school parliaments, students participated in and organized events including art exhibitions, discussion groups, and short plays to raise awareness about human rights.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. During November and December 2014, UNRWA continued to strengthen camp infrastructure, which has been eroded by increased demand. This included the rehabilitation of the sewer network in Burj Barajneh camp and rehabilitation works for the water supply systems in Ein El Hilweh, Rashidieh and Beddawi camps.
Winterization. A harsh winter has underscored the vulnerability of Palestine refugees from Syria. Through UNRWA coordination and flexibility on the part of partners, all Palestine refugees in the Beqa'a, and other areas above 500 meters countrywide, received assistance from the International Committee of the Red Crescent, through UNRWA ATM cards. This included fuel for five months, at US$100 per month, and a one-time payment of US$50 for replacement of winterization goods: a total of US$550 in assistance for each family. UNICEF also provided US$30 per child country-wide for clothing, through UNRWA ATM cards, and fuel for schools in the Beqa'a. Other organizations providing winterization assistance to PRS families are coordinating their efforts with UNRWA.
In Jordan, 14,803 Palestine refugees and their families are currently recorded with UNRWA. While the number of Palestinians from Syria continues to grow, the number of new arrivals is slowing. Overall, Palestine refugees from Syria had good access to health, education, and relief assistance in 2014; however, as a consequence of a decline in funding, UNRWA was not able to provide shelter assistance and delivered a reduced winterization package and cash assistance.
Emergency relief. As of December 2014, UNRWA distributed ATM cards to all Palestine refugee families, as well as a user guide and the number to a hotline available to quickly respond to beneficiary questions regarding the cards. ATM cards have proved not only to be cost-effective, but also to minimize protections risks by removing the need for Palestine refugees from Syria to attend cash distribution sites in large numbers. End-year donor contributions enabled essential food and NFI needs of to be fully met in 2014. Critical winterization assistance was distributed to all families in December, ensuring they were prepared for the snow storm in early January. However, due to a lack of funding, the winterization package of US$310 was less than what was recommend by the sector working group.
Protection. In December, many Palestinian refugees continued to face challenges obtaining government documentation such as birth and death certificates. Four of the 11 cases handled by the protection team in December involved refugees unable to obtain proper documentation. Since the beginning of 2014, the protection team has managed over 414 protection cases, including over 837 issues requiring interventions. Throughout 2014, the majority of cases handled by the protection unit were child protection incidents (25 per cent), SGBV incidents (18 per cent), or threats of deportation (16 per cent). The Agency responded to these cases through either internal or external referrals.
Shelter. Funding shortfalls meant UNRWA was unable to provide shelter assistance to vulnerable PRS families in 2014. Shelter assistance is critical to support vulnerable PRS families to meet their basic shelter needs in the face of rising rental costs. For 2015, no donor contributions have been received for shelter to date. If this need continues to go unmet in 2015, the vulnerability of PRS is likely to increase and families may be forced to resort to negative coping mechanisms
Education. Approximately 1,700 children from Syria are enrolled in UNRWA schools in Jordan in the 2014/5 academic year. As government policy towards refugees from Syria becomes increasingly restrictive, this number may increase, with some families preferring to enrol their children in UNRWA schools rather than government schools. Just under 3,000 school kits were distributed to UNRWA students, including all PRS children, thanks to a contribution from UNICEF and its partners. UNRWA has been forced to bar any new Syrian children from enrolling in UNRWA schools for the 2014/5 academic year. In previous years, UNRWA had accepted Syrian children living in the Palestine refugee camps; this is no longer possible due to critical funding shortfalls and a lack of space. UNRWA is working with its partners to see how it can assist these Syrian children.
Health. UNRWA is providing free primary healthcare to PRS in its 23 clinics across the country, one health point, and four mobile dental clinics, as well as hospital referrals for secondary and tertiary care with almost full coverage. The Agency also supports an on-site clinic in Cyber City, run by the Jordanian Health Aid Society (JHAS). In 2014, PRS received close to 20,000 primary health care consultations in UNRWA clinics (including 1,938 in December). This is in addition to more than 660 secondary and tertiary health care consultations and admissions.