UNHCR ready to send aid to 65,000 people inside Syria for Eid

News Stories, 25 October 2012

© UNHCR/B.Diab
An aid distribution centre inside Syria. UNHCR hopes to distribute relief items in previously inaccessible areas if a proposed ceasefire holds over Eid.

GENEVA, October 25 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and its partners are ready to send thousands of pre-positioned emergency aid packages to families in previously inaccessible areas of Syria if a proposed four-day ceasefire over this weekend's Eid Al Adha holiday takes hold.

"In all, some 550 tonnes of supplies are being made available for distribution to up to 13,000 affected families some 65,000 people in several previously inaccessible areas," a UNHCR press release said on Thursday.

Five thousand UNHCR emergency family kits have already been pre-positioned in the north-western city of Aleppo, with another 5,000 on the way. UNHCR's Damascus office also hopes to rush nearly 2,000 of the family emergency kits to the eastern city of Homs today.

Another 1,000 kits are to be sent Friday and Saturday from UNHCR's office in the north-eastern city of Hassakeh to the neighbouring governorate of Al Raqqa for distribution, while a smaller number 140 kits will be made available in areas south of Hassakeh.

"We and our partners want to be in a position to move quickly if security allows over the next few days," said UNHCR Syria Representative Tarik Kurdi in Damascus. "There are areas around Aleppo, Idlib, Al Raqqa and Homs we've been unable to reach with humanitarian aid for some time. If there is a window of opportunity here, we will be ready to move."

The ceasefire was called for by the United Nations and League of Arab States' joint special representative on the Syria crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi.

UNHCR is working closely with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other partners to provide aid. Each 42-kilogramme emergency family kit contains four mattresses, six blankets, one jerry can, a kitchen set, plastic sheeting and a family hygiene kit, including sanitary napkins, soap and other items.

The UN refugee agency is part of the joint UN humanitarian response in Syria, where there are at least 1.2 million people in need. The refugee agency has more than 350 staff in three offices across Syria.

It is currently at the half-way point in a large-scale operation to distribute non-food aid packages to 100,000 Syrian families (500,000 people) by the end of this year. It is also carrying out an emergency cash assistance programme for displaced people, providing emergency funds for vulnerable families so they can pay rent or meet other critical needs not covered by the aid package programme.

So far, nearly 9,000 families have benefitted from the cash assistance programme in Al Nabek (south of Homs) and in Hassekeh.

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UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

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Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

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The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

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