Support for families in need in Hasiya, near Al-Qusair, Syria

Briefing Notes, 31 May 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Dan McNorton to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 31 May 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This week the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries passed 1.6 million. UNHCR's work also continues inside Syria amidst difficult operational and security challenges.

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, UNHCR together with the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, OCHA and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), visited the town of Hasiya in central-western Syria in order to assess the situation and needs of Syrian families that had been forcibly displaced from Al-Qusair.

Since the intensification of the fighting in Al-Qusair three weeks ago, Hasiya, a small town of 16,000 people and located 25 kilometres from Al-Qusair has seen at least 700 families or 3,500 people arriving most are women and children.

Others individuals crossed into Lebanon since 8 May, our office in Lebanon has registered 3,000 refugees from Al-Qusair, although the actual number of refugees fleeing is likely to be higher.

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 local people of Hasiya.

UNHCR was able to witness the dire humanitarian situation of these displaced families. 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. The nearest clinic is forty minutes away.

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

The families we spoke to told us they urgently need milk, diapers, medical supplies and adequate shelter. Water to the town is also in short supply and insufficient for the swelling population. Most of the host and displaced population are dependent on the water trucked in by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent once a week.

In the course of this visit, and together with the local authorities, UNHCR has been able to identify a building that could act as a safer location to host those currently displaced by the fighting in Al-Qusair and to deliver additional essential items such as mattresses, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheets and hygiene items diapers, sanitary pads and hygiene kits.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut: Reem Alsalem, on mobile +961 71 911 388
  • In Geneva: Dan McNorton on Mobile +41 79217 3011
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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.

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