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

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

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.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

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.

Posted on 5 February 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

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

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