UNHCR makes progress in assisting up to 500,000 people in Syria by year's end

News Stories, 13 November 2012

© UNHCR/M.Abu Asaker
A Syrian refugee registers with a UNHCR staff member in Lebanon to receive assistance.

GENEVA, November 13 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency is making progress in a major effort to provide aid to up to 500,000 people in Syria by the end of this year, despite recent disruptions to operations due to insecurity.

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said family aid packages had been distributed to some 59,000 families, or about 295,000 people. The emergency packages contain non-food humanitarian supplies ranging from blankets and clothing to cooking kits and jerry cans. These are aimed at helping families meet basic needs during the coming winter.

"Unfortunately, recent deliveries have been very difficult. Last week, humanitarian operations were disrupted on at least two days in Damascus because of insecurity. Similar difficulties were experienced by staff working in Aleppo, and we are temporarily withdrawing staff from north-eastern Hassakeh governorate," Fleming told journalists in Geneva.

Insecurity over the past few weeks has also resulted in loss of aid supplies, including some 13,000 blankets destroyed in a Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse in Aleppo that was apparently hit by a shell. In addition, a truck carrying 600 blankets was hijacked on its way to Adra, outside Damascus.

Nevertheless, progress has been made. "Yesterday, we were able to deliver nearly 5,000 mattresses and 500 hygiene kits to Aleppo, Hassakeh and Adra. We also continue with the provision of education materials and cash assistance for families," Fleming revealed.

In Hassakeh, 10,500 displaced children have received individual school kits. And cash assistance of US$150 per family has been provided to nearly 12,100 displaced families in Al Nabek (rural Damascus) and in Hassakeh governorate. Up to 2.5 million Syrians are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, the number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration throughout the surrounding region has surpassed 407,000 and continues to climb. There are tens of thousands more who have not registered.

The past week saw increasing arrivals in Turkey, Jordan and northern Iraq. As of Saturday, an estimated 115,000 Syrians were in 14 government-run camps in Turkey, with another 60,000-70,000 believed to be living outside camps. Numbers crossing the border have fallen since late last week, with 2,340 arriving between Saturday and yesterday and 1,363 returning to Syria.

Jordan, meanwhile, received 4,045 new arrivals in the week up to last Saturday, the highest weekly total since September 1. Last Thursday also saw the highest daily number of arrivals in two months 879. The number of refugees registered or awaiting registration in Jordan now stands at more than 116,000, with over 70 per cent living outside camps.

At the Za'atri refugee camp north of Amman, UNHCR engineers and site planners are working with the refugees to improve conditions, including advising on drainage techniques now that the rainy season is here. Tools and coarse rock were provided yesterday to those whose tents are in low-lying areas. Rock been spread throughout the camp as part of efforts to reduce dust in the dry season and improve drainage in the rainy months.

In northern Iraq, the Kurdistan region saw an increase in new refugees for the week up to November 7, with 3,171 Syrian arrivals predominantly Syrian Kurds. Nearly 1,500 more were registered between Thursday and Sunday. The number of Syrian refugees in Iraq is now more than 50,000, including over 42,000 in the Kurdistan Region and another 8,400 in Anbar and other governorates to the south.

While the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon remains stable, UNHCR is stepping up its efforts to register refugees in need. "In the north and south of Lebanon, we continue to register refugees at our centralized registration premises, while also using mobile registration teams to reach those who cannot reach the established centres," UNHCR's Fleming said in Geneva.

In the Bekaa Valley, mobile registration was concluded in Al-Qaa targeting refugees settled in Hermel, Fakeha, Jdeideh, and Al-Qaa. More than 6,000 people were registered in a single week, bringing the number of registered and waiting to be registered refugees in Lebanon to more than 118,600.

A recent positive development was the Lebanese government's announcement to waive visa renewal fees for Syrian refugees, but the government has also expressed its hope that the international community would help to cover the lost revenue associated with those fees. UNHCR is liaising with the government to ensure that this new policy is implemented throughout the country.

With temperatures now dropping in the mountainous north and Bekaa Valley, UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have focused distribution efforts on providing winter items such as mattresses, blankets and winter clothes. UNHCR, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children also selected 35 schools around Lebanon who received fuel vouchers to help warm schools during winter.

Efforts are continuing to rehabilitate collective shelters and host family homes; erect prefabricated houses and temporary shelters; and provide cash to landlords and to vulnerable refugees unable to pay rent. "However, it is urgent that we strengthen these efforts in conjunction with the government of Lebanon to improve living conditions for refugees in Lebanon, while enhancing preparedness in the case of a larger influx," Fleming stressed.

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2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

Beyond the Border

In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.

Beyond the Border

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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