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.
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