Needs great, conditions dire in Homs and other Syrian cities

News Stories, 30 October 2013

Syrian children get used to their new home in a shelter for the internally displaced in the battered city of Homs.

HOMS, Syria, October 30 (UNHCR) A top UNHCR official visiting war-battered Homs this week said that while the refugee agency is helping tens of thousands of people survive inside Syria, the situation in cities like Homs is "dire" and people "lack everything."

The comments by Amin Awad, director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa Bureau, came as he toured Homs earlier this week and talked to internally displaced people in the Mohammad Durra shelter as well as a distribution centre in the conflict-damaged western Syria city.

"The needs are great in all Syria's cities," said Awad, who is also the UN's regional refugee coordinator. "People lack everything . . . This is truly a humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes," added the official, who wished to assess the needs in Homs as well as the impact of UNHCR aid.

The refugee agency, using a fleet of some 250 trucks, provides aid to 14,000-15,000 households every week, or about 75,000 people. Some of these people live in areas that are difficult to reach because of the conflict and general insecurity.

"These life-saving items are helping conflict-affected families survive extremely difficult circumstances, meet their most basic needs, preserve their dignity and prevent health problems," Awad noted.

But the needs are enormous and as he spoke 44 containers full of UNHCR aid were being transferred to a warehouse after arriving on two ships at the Syrian port of Tartus. UNHCR plans to distribute this emergency assistance mainly to towns and cities that are difficult to reach, including Homs, Idlib, Aleppo, Hama, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Lattakia.

The UN refugee agency is striving to provide core relief items to 3 million internally displaced people, in addition to health care, shelter, financial aid and protection to hundreds of thousands more. It has to date helped some 2.4 million people in all of Syria's 14 governorates. About 40 per cent of UNHCR's relief items have been distributed to people in dangerous areas. The agency also helps more than 2 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries.

Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR's representative in Syria, said the challenges of getting aid into these difficult areas were many and great, but the refugee agency was "resolved to get vulnerable Syrians the assistance they need." He added that with temperatures dropping, "We are in a race to help people prepare for Syria's third winter amid conflict."

UNHCR also plans to transport much needed polio vaccine to several isolated and hard-to-reach areas in north and north-east Syria where thousands of children will benefit from a polio and measles vaccination campaign. UNHCR will coordinate its efforts on the ground with local authorities as well as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Awad, who arrived in Damascus on Sunday, also visited UNHCR operations in the Syrian capital, including a financial assistance centre. He held talks during his visit on the situation in-country with senior government officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, social affairs, finance, local administration, and housing.

UNHCR also signed an agreement to construct 200 housing units in rural Damascus for people displaced by the conflict. UNHCR has so far rehabilitated shelters hosting 35,000 people. Noting the significant support of the international community for the displaced Syrians inside and outside the country, Awad concluded: "Needs are great."




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.

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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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