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Despite insecurity, logistical obstacles, aid effort in Syria makes some progress

News Stories, 1 November 2012

© UNHCR/H.Mukhtar
Preparing for an aid distribution in Damascus. UNHCR was able to reach some Syrian families with emergency humanitarian assistance in previously inaccessible areas over the Eid al-Adha holiday.

DAMASCUS, Syria, October 31 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency had some success in distributing emergency humanitarian assistance to thousands of Syrian families in previously inaccessible areas over the Eid al-Adha holiday. But the effort was hampered by insecurity and logistical hurdles.

In all, 550 tons of UNHCR supplies were set aside for possible distribution to up to 13,000 affected families or 65,000 people during a proposed ceasefire, which did not hold.

"Unfortunately, the violence continued," said UNHCR spokesman. Ron Redmond. "Nevertheless, UNHCR and its partners were able to make some progress in delivering emergency family kits to Homs, south Hassakeh, al Raqqa and Aleppo."

As part of the joint UN humanitarian response in Syria, UNHCR had already pre-positioned five thousands 42-kilogramme emergency family kits in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) warehouse in the northern city of Aleppo and had hoped to deliver 5,000 more from a Damascus stockpile over the weekend.

Last Thursday, SARC and its local relief committee partners in Aleppo did manage to distribute some of the pre-positioned emergency kits to 800 families about 4,000 people. But insecurity prevented further distributions in Aleppo and nearby Idlib. "Nor were we able to deliver the other 5,000 emergency kits from Damascus," said Redmond.

The refugee agency did, however, manage to get 20 trucks, carrying UNHCR family kits, to Homs. One truck in a seven-vehicle convoy from Damascus to Homs was hijacked on Saturday and its cargo of mattresses stolen. The driver was unharmed and the truck later released.

Altogether, the deliveries to Homs are bringing 1,900 emergency family kits for up to 9,500 people. Twelve of the trucks arrived on Saturday as part of a joint UN mission to the city. The aid supplies were delivered to the SARC warehouse in Homs.

Insecurity in and around the city prevented immediate distribution of the aid. SARC officials said they and their local counterparts would be able to distribute the family kits over the next two to three weeks, including some 700 to the Rastan and Talbiseh areas if security allows.

"Our team in the north-eastern city of Hassakeh worked through the weekend opening supply routes to southern Hassakeh governorate and to the north-central city of Raqqa. A trial run on Saturday succeeded in delivering 70 family kits to southern Hassakeh and another 150 to Raqqa," said Redmond.

"Although a lack of diesel fuel in the region delayed the operation, by mid-week we delivered more than 1,000 kits to these two areas and 270 families have already received the packages in southern Hassakeh," he added.

UNHCR has more than 350 staff in three offices across Syria and is part of the joint United Nations humanitarian response. The agency is at the half-way point in a large-scale operation to distribute non-food aid packages to 500,000 people by the end of this year.

The refugee agency 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, 9,800 families have benefitted from the cash programme in Al Nabek, south of Homs, and in Hassekeh.

Elsewhere in the region, the number of registered Syrian refugees or those awaiting registration in surrounding countries now totals more than 372,600. They include 105,700 in Jordan; 106,300 in Lebanon; 45,300 in Iraq; 107,800 in Turkey; and 7,500 in North Africa.




UNHCR country pages

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.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

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.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

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.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

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