UNHCR distributes winter aid airlifted to north-east Syria

Making a Difference, 30 December 2013

© GoHPhoto
A man whose family has been displaced collects blankets and other aid during an aid distribution this month in Al Hassakeh.

QAMISHLY, Syria, December 30 (UNHCR) Emergency winter aid airlifted to north-east Syria by the UN refugee agency in the past two weeks is being distributed to more than 50,000 vulnerable people in isolated areas.

The UNHCR airlift from Erbil, Iraq, of some 300 tonnes of aid began on December 17 and was completed on Sunday, when the 12th and final flight landed at Qamishly International Airport in Al Hassakeh governorate. The chartered flights were carrying items such as thermal blankets, plastic tarpaulins, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, jerry cans and hygiene supplies.

"Every day we are distributing the airlifted relief supplies to more than 2,500 displaced people in Al Hassakeh governorate," said Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR's representative to Syria. He added that the items would help more than 50,000 needy people in the region who have gone without adequate relief supplies for months.

The flights, made possible under an agreement with the Iraqi and Syrian authorities, began as winter cold and record snowfall struck the Middle East, bringing new hardship to some 9.3 million vulnerable people across Syria, including an estimated 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians. The World Food Programme and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) also flew in vital aid from Erbil.

It was the first time the UN has used Iraq as a hub to deliver relief items into Syria. Road convoys to eastern Syria have been perilous since May because of continuing conflict.

Over 2013, the UN refugee agency has helped more than 3.2 million people in all of Syria's 14 governorates. In addition to its distribution of more than 8 million core relief items, UNHCR has provided health care to more than 970,000 Syrians and delivered polio vaccines to hard-to-reach areas. UNHCR has also rehabilitated 89 collective shelters housing displaced people. Its cash assistance programmes have also reached almost 190,000 particularly vulnerable people throughout the country.

Every week UNHCR continues to send 250 trucks across Syria carrying relief aid to support some 75,000 people. Earlier this month, UN agencies and NGOs launched a joint appeal seeking US$2.3 billion for relief activities inside Syria over 2014.

UNHCR has some 340 personnel working throughout Syria. The agency has maintained an office in Al Hassekeh since 2010 and expanded its presence in Qamishly in May to help address needs in the region.

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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.

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

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The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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