UNHCR assesses needs and dire situation of displaced in western Syrian town

News Stories, 31 May 2013

© UNHCR/A.Blazy
A baby gets some rest in one of the tents put up in Hasiya for the displaced Syrian families. Children there face many health problems.

GENEVA, May 31 (UNHCR) As growing numbers of Syrians leave their country, the UN refugee agency continues to deliver aid to desperate Syrians inside the country amid difficult operational and security challenges.

During a week when the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries passed the 1.6 million mark, UNHCR on Wednesday joined an inter-agency mission guided by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to assess the situation and needs of internally displaced families in Hasiya, a town of 16,000 in central-western Syria.

"UNHCR was able to witness the dire humanitarian situation of these displaced families," spokesman Dan McNorton told journalists in Geneva, adding that the families hailed from Al Qusayr, some 25 kilometres away.

Intensified fighting in the past three weeks in Al Qusayr has forced many people to flee. At least 700 families, or 3,500 people, have sought shelter in Hasiya. Most are women and children. Others crossed into Lebanon. Since May 8, UNHCR staff in Lebanon have registered 3,000 refugees from Al Qusayr, although the actual number is probably higher.

McNorton said the inter-agency team visited various sites that are now home to an estimated 150 families. They have been staying in three schools and an unfinished building, and have put up tents donated by the people of Hasiya.

The team members were concerned about the welfare of the people they saw. "Due to the poor sanitation and hygiene conditions in which people were living, many, especially children, were suffering from diarrhoea, respiratory problems, high fevers, ear infections and skin diseases," said McNorton. "The nearest clinic is 40 minutes away," he noted.

UNHCR had delivered essential relief items of blankets and mattresses three days earlier to 500 families. "The needs however remain huge, and UNHCR is looking at how we can deliver additional items to cover the needs of these new arrivals," the spokesman said.

The families in Hasiya said they urgently needed milk, nappies, medical supplies and adequate shelter. Water to the town is also in short supply and insufficient for the growing population. Most of the host and displaced population are dependent on the water trucked in by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent once a week.

McNorton said that during the visit, and together with the local authorities, UNHCR had identified a building that could be a safer location to host those displaced by the fighting in Al Qusayr. It could also be used to deliver essential relief items such as mattresses, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheets and hygiene and sanitation items.

The World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also took part in the mission to Hasiya.




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.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

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

Croatia; Destination UnknownPlay video

Croatia; Destination Unknown

Serbia: Overstretched BordersPlay video

Serbia: Overstretched Borders

As Hungary builds a fence on its border with Serbia, the situation at the border between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece is increasingly precarious. Refugees in Serbia on their way to Hungry fear the tighter measures and say they wouldn't have fled home had they not been forced to do it by the war.
Saving Diana: A Syrian Refugee With Special NeedsPlay video

Saving Diana: A Syrian Refugee With Special Needs

Ten year old Diana was born in Syria with a severe form of Cerebral Palsy. For nearly a month, she traveled with her mother and brother across deserts and sea in search of safety in Europe.