UNHCR ready to send aid to 65,000 people inside Syria for Eid

News Stories, 25 October 2012

© UNHCR/B.Diab
An aid distribution centre inside Syria. UNHCR hopes to distribute relief items in previously inaccessible areas if a proposed ceasefire holds over Eid.

GENEVA, October 25 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and its partners are ready to send thousands of pre-positioned emergency aid packages to families in previously inaccessible areas of Syria if a proposed four-day ceasefire over this weekend's Eid Al Adha holiday takes hold.

"In all, some 550 tonnes of supplies are being made available for distribution to up to 13,000 affected families some 65,000 people in several previously inaccessible areas," a UNHCR press release said on Thursday.

Five thousand UNHCR emergency family kits have already been pre-positioned in the north-western city of Aleppo, with another 5,000 on the way. UNHCR's Damascus office also hopes to rush nearly 2,000 of the family emergency kits to the eastern city of Homs today.

Another 1,000 kits are to be sent Friday and Saturday from UNHCR's office in the north-eastern city of Hassakeh to the neighbouring governorate of Al Raqqa for distribution, while a smaller number 140 kits will be made available in areas south of Hassakeh.

"We and our partners want to be in a position to move quickly if security allows over the next few days," said UNHCR Syria Representative Tarik Kurdi in Damascus. "There are areas around Aleppo, Idlib, Al Raqqa and Homs we've been unable to reach with humanitarian aid for some time. If there is a window of opportunity here, we will be ready to move."

The ceasefire was called for by the United Nations and League of Arab States' joint special representative on the Syria crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi.

UNHCR is working closely with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other partners to provide aid. Each 42-kilogramme emergency family kit contains four mattresses, six blankets, one jerry can, a kitchen set, plastic sheeting and a family hygiene kit, including sanitary napkins, soap and other items.

The UN refugee agency is part of the joint UN humanitarian response in Syria, where there are at least 1.2 million people in need. The refugee agency has more than 350 staff in three offices across Syria.

It is currently at the half-way point in a large-scale operation to distribute non-food aid packages to 100,000 Syrian families (500,000 people) by the end of this year. It 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, nearly 9,000 families have benefitted from the cash assistance programme in Al Nabek (south of Homs) and in Hassekeh.

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UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

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.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

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In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

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