UNHCR stocks new office in south Syria with aid for thousands

The opening of the office and warehouse in Sweida is part of a policy aimed at expanding UNHCR's humanitarian operation to help the rising numbers of IDPs.

A UNHCR container truck heads for Sweida with aid to be distributed to needy Syrians displaced within the south of their country.  © UNHCR/B.Diab

DAMASCUS, Syria, June 19 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has opened a field office and warehouse in the southern Syrian city of Sweida and stocked it with aid items for onward delivery to thousands of internally displaced civilians.

A UNHCR convoy on Wednesday crossed the border from Jordan and made its way to nearby Sweida with 25,000 blankets, 10,000 sleeping mats, 2,500 kitchen sets, 2,000 plastic sheets and 5,000 jerry cans from warehouses in Amman. The aid will be distributed to the neediest among an estimated 550,000 internally displaced people (IDP) living in the neighbouring governorates of Sweida and Dara'a.

The opening of the office and warehouse in Sweida on Wednesday is part of a policy aimed at expanding UNHCR's humanitarian operation to support the increasing number of IDPs - there are believed to be more than 6.5 million across the country.

The Sweida office will distribute basic relief items, rehabilitate collective shelters and arrange for the provision of health, education and legal services. The office will also become a hub for coordinating the transport of aid across the Syrian-Jordanian border, particularly to Dara'a governorate and hard-to-reach areas.

Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR's representative in Syria, said UNHCR would now be able to distribute relief supplies in the southern governorates without the need to transfer them to Damascus first.

The newly opened UNHCR office in Sweida.  © UNHCR/Q.Al Azroni

He added that this would facilitate and accelerate the delivery of urgently needed relief items to the most vulnerable, "not only in areas that are easily accessible, but also in disputed and hard-to-reach areas. This will help UNHCR improve its effectiveness under the present circumstances."

Kurdi noted that other UN agencies operating in Syria would also benefit from the cross-border transport services and would be able to use the warehouse in Sweida.

Decentralization is a vital part of UNHCR's strategy to scale up its humanitarian assistance and reach in the country. With Wednesday's opening, UNHCR now has offices in Damascus, Aleppo, Al-Hassakeh, Qamishly, Homs, Tartus and Sweida.

"Field offices are extremely important as they enable more effective programming and help UNHCR and other humanitarian actors in continuing to implement flexible approaches," said Kurdi, while adding that UNHCR was committed to trying to reach all those desperately in need of humanitarian assistance across Syria.

This year so far, UNHCR has distributed aid to some 2.3 million people in 13 out of Syria's 14 governorates.