Needs great, conditions dire in Homs and other Syrian cities

News Stories, 30 October 2013

Syrian children get used to their new home in a shelter for the internally displaced in the battered city of Homs.

HOMS, Syria, October 30 (UNHCR) A top UNHCR official visiting war-battered Homs this week said that while the refugee agency is helping tens of thousands of people survive inside Syria, the situation in cities like Homs is "dire" and people "lack everything."

The comments by Amin Awad, director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa Bureau, came as he toured Homs earlier this week and talked to internally displaced people in the Mohammad Durra shelter as well as a distribution centre in the conflict-damaged western Syria city.

"The needs are great in all Syria's cities," said Awad, who is also the UN's regional refugee coordinator. "People lack everything . . . This is truly a humanitarian tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes," added the official, who wished to assess the needs in Homs as well as the impact of UNHCR aid.

The refugee agency, using a fleet of some 250 trucks, provides aid to 14,000-15,000 households every week, or about 75,000 people. Some of these people live in areas that are difficult to reach because of the conflict and general insecurity.

"These life-saving items are helping conflict-affected families survive extremely difficult circumstances, meet their most basic needs, preserve their dignity and prevent health problems," Awad noted.

But the needs are enormous and as he spoke 44 containers full of UNHCR aid were being transferred to a warehouse after arriving on two ships at the Syrian port of Tartus. UNHCR plans to distribute this emergency assistance mainly to towns and cities that are difficult to reach, including Homs, Idlib, Aleppo, Hama, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Lattakia.

The UN refugee agency is striving to provide core relief items to 3 million internally displaced people, in addition to health care, shelter, financial aid and protection to hundreds of thousands more. It has to date helped some 2.4 million people in all of Syria's 14 governorates. About 40 per cent of UNHCR's relief items have been distributed to people in dangerous areas. The agency also helps more than 2 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries.

Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR's representative in Syria, said the challenges of getting aid into these difficult areas were many and great, but the refugee agency was "resolved to get vulnerable Syrians the assistance they need." He added that with temperatures dropping, "We are in a race to help people prepare for Syria's third winter amid conflict."

UNHCR also plans to transport much needed polio vaccine to several isolated and hard-to-reach areas in north and north-east Syria where thousands of children will benefit from a polio and measles vaccination campaign. UNHCR will coordinate its efforts on the ground with local authorities as well as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Awad, who arrived in Damascus on Sunday, also visited UNHCR operations in the Syrian capital, including a financial assistance centre. He held talks during his visit on the situation in-country with senior government officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, social affairs, finance, local administration, and housing.

UNHCR also signed an agreement to construct 200 housing units in rural Damascus for people displaced by the conflict. UNHCR has so far rehabilitated shelters hosting 35,000 people. Noting the significant support of the international community for the displaced Syrians inside and outside the country, Awad concluded: "Needs are great."




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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