UNHCR distributes winter aid airlifted to north-east Syria

Making a Difference, 30 December 2013

© GoHPhoto
A man whose family has been displaced collects blankets and other aid during an aid distribution this month in Al Hassakeh.

QAMISHLY, Syria, December 30 (UNHCR) Emergency winter aid airlifted to north-east Syria by the UN refugee agency in the past two weeks is being distributed to more than 50,000 vulnerable people in isolated areas.

The UNHCR airlift from Erbil, Iraq, of some 300 tonnes of aid began on December 17 and was completed on Sunday, when the 12th and final flight landed at Qamishly International Airport in Al Hassakeh governorate. The chartered flights were carrying items such as thermal blankets, plastic tarpaulins, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, jerry cans and hygiene supplies.

"Every day we are distributing the airlifted relief supplies to more than 2,500 displaced people in Al Hassakeh governorate," said Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR's representative to Syria. He added that the items would help more than 50,000 needy people in the region who have gone without adequate relief supplies for months.

The flights, made possible under an agreement with the Iraqi and Syrian authorities, began as winter cold and record snowfall struck the Middle East, bringing new hardship to some 9.3 million vulnerable people across Syria, including an estimated 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians. The World Food Programme and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) also flew in vital aid from Erbil.

It was the first time the UN has used Iraq as a hub to deliver relief items into Syria. Road convoys to eastern Syria have been perilous since May because of continuing conflict.

Over 2013, the UN refugee agency has helped more than 3.2 million people in all of Syria's 14 governorates. In addition to its distribution of more than 8 million core relief items, UNHCR has provided health care to more than 970,000 Syrians and delivered polio vaccines to hard-to-reach areas. UNHCR has also rehabilitated 89 collective shelters housing displaced people. Its cash assistance programmes have also reached almost 190,000 particularly vulnerable people throughout the country.

Every week UNHCR continues to send 250 trucks across Syria carrying relief aid to support some 75,000 people. Earlier this month, UN agencies and NGOs launched a joint appeal seeking US$2.3 billion for relief activities inside Syria over 2014.

UNHCR has some 340 personnel working throughout Syria. The agency has maintained an office in Al Hassekeh since 2010 and expanded its presence in Qamishly in May to help address needs in the region.

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There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

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