UNHCR airlifts winterization supplies and vaccines to north-eastern Syria

Press Releases, 2 December 2013

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has airlifted urgently needed winterization supplies for extremely vulnerable families as well as polio vaccines for more than 538,000 children from Damascus to Al Hassakeh, Syria in a series of flights over recent days.

On Saturday 30 November a UNHCR-chartered Antonov-12 aircraft transported 14.4 metric tons of aid including 2,000 thermal blankets, 1,000 sheets of plastic tarpaulin and other equipment to Al Hassakeh for onward delivery to the UN hub in Qamishly, in north-eastern Syria.

That airlift followed a flight on Thursday 28 November in which the Antonov 12 carried polio vaccines for 538,000 children from the Syrian capital Damascus to Al Hassakeh on Thursday, as a contribution to the inter-agency effort led by WHO and UNICEF to ensure the vaccination of children living in hard-to-reach areas of Syria. In addition to the polio vaccines, the UNHCR air charter of 12.5 metric tons of aid carried tens of thousands of vaccines against meningitis, tuberculosis, MMR, tetanus for 150,000 individuals.

The transportation of vaccines is a delicate matter as the cold-chain must be preserved to keep these vaccines effective. UNHCR's airlift of urgently needed relief items is particularly important as the main road from Damascus to Al Hassakeh remains perilous for aid deliveries and no significant deliveries of relief items have been able to reach the region by road since May 2013.

UNHCR's airlift also included five incubators for Qamishly hospital's neonatal unit and a ton of infusion fluid which was sent to the health department in Al Hassakeh from where it will be delivered to hospitals in Hassakeh Governorate.

"The medicines delivered to Al Hassakeh are intended to cover the gaps in Syria's northeast including in hard-to-reach areas of Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Al Hassakeh governorates," said UNHCR Representative Tarik Kurdi. These vaccines against polio will be used in the second round of vaccinations, which will start on 8th December."

The UN refugee agency has maintained an office in Al Hassakeh since 2010 and expanded its presence in Qamishly in May 2013 to help address needs amongst displaced persons and refugees living in the region.

Because of its unique access into Al Hassakeh, UNHCR has been actively involved registering internally displaced persons (IDPs), and providing assistance with core relief items like shelter material, blankets, cooking sets, sleeping mats, hygienic supplies and other aid alongside cash distributions to help vulnerable families and also providing health care.

So far over 2013, UNHCR has registered 33,000 displaced families (approximately 115,000 people) in Al Hassakeh including 23,000 families who came from Deir Ezzor. UNHCR has provided its specially designed package of core relief items to 23,500 people in Al Hassakeh and 94,500 people in Deir Ezzor.

UNHCR also runs a cash assistance programme in north-eastern Syria that has assisted 57,400 vulnerable displaced individuals over 2013.

The UN refugee agency continues to run a primary health care polyclinic in Al Hassakeh which serves both refugees and vulnerable displaced Syrians. So far over 2013 this polyclinic has provided primary health care to more than 48,000 patients.

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