UNHCR stocks new office in south Syria with aid for thousands

News Stories, 19 June 2014

© UNHCR/B.Diab
A UNHCR container truck heads for Sweida with aid to be distributed to needy Syrians displaced within the south of their country.

DAMASCUS, Syria, June 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has opened a field office and warehouse in the southern Syrian city of Sweida and stocked it with aid items for onward delivery to thousands of internally displaced civilians.

A UNHCR convoy on Wednesday crossed the border from Jordan and made its way to nearby Sweida with 25,000 blankets, 10,000 sleeping mats, 2,500 kitchen sets, 2,000 plastic sheets and 5,000 jerry cans from warehouses in Amman. The aid will be distributed to the neediest among an estimated 550,000 internally displaced people (IDP) living in the neighbouring governorates of Sweida and Dara'a.

The opening of the office and warehouse in Sweida on Wednesday is part of a policy aimed at expanding UNHCR's humanitarian operation to support the increasing number of IDPs there are believed to be more than 6.5 million across the country.

The Sweida office will distribute basic relief items, rehabilitate collective shelters and arrange for the provision of health, education and legal services. The office will also become a hub for coordinating the transport of aid across the Syrian-Jordanian border, particularly to Dara'a governorate and hard-to-reach areas.

Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR's representative in Syria, said UNHCR would now be able to distribute relief supplies in the southern governorates without the need to transfer them to Damascus first.

© UNHCR/Q.Al Azroni
The newly opened UNHCR office in Sweida.

He added that this would facilitate and accelerate the delivery of urgently needed relief items to the most vulnerable, "not only in areas that are easily accessible, but also in disputed and hard-to-reach areas. This will help UNHCR improve its effectiveness under the present circumstances."

Kurdi noted that other UN agencies operating in Syria would also benefit from the cross-border transport services and would be able to use the warehouse in Sweida.

Decentralization is a vital part of UNHCR's strategy to scale up its humanitarian assistance and reach in the country. With Wednesday's opening, UNHCR now has offices in Damascus, Aleppo, Al-Hassakeh, Qamishly, Homs, Tartus and Sweida.

"Field offices are extremely important as they enable more effective programming and help UNHCR and other humanitarian actors in continuing to implement flexible approaches," said Kurdi, while adding that UNHCR was committed to trying to reach all those desperately in need of humanitarian assistance across Syria.

This year so far, UNHCR has distributed aid to some 2.3 million people in 13 out of Syria's 14 governorates.

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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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The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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