UNHCR aid to Syria's embattled Al Wa'er, Homs Province

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Syria, UNHCR aid deliveries over the past week have focused on people affected by the recent fighting in the Al Wa'er suburb of Homs.

On Saturday (May 25th) blankets, mattresses and household items supplied by UNHCR were distributed to 200 families displaced from Al Wa'er to Homs City. Yesterday, a UNHCR truck carrying humanitarian relief items for 10,000 persons arrived in Al Wa'er itself. The supplies consisted of 5,500 diapers for babies and the elderly, 4,000 sanitary napkins, and 2,000 water jerry cans. Two additional trucks, carrying 3,000 hygiene kits, had to turn back because of the security situation.

Al Wa'er is home to an estimated 400,000 people, of which half are people who have been displaced from other areas of Homs Governorate - mainly Baba Amer and the old city of Homs.

Heavy clashes between government and opposition forces in Al Wa'er broke out on May 16th and were interrupted by a two day lull that started on Saturday. Conflict has since resumed. In the course of the recent fighting, at least five buildings hosting hundreds of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been seriously damaged. In one, Alarabaeen tower, a family of seven was killed during mortar attacks. At least seven other persons were killed in separate incidents, and we know of 32 persons having been injured.

The fighting has displaced around 5000 people, with 250 families having fled to other parts of Homs City where they are staying with relatives. Many of these people have been displaced multiple times. Other displaced people crossed into Lebanon last week: Ten families, comprising 33 people, have registered with UNHCR Lebanon

A UNHCR team visited one of the IDP shelters in Al Wa'er on May 26th. The shelter, in Western Al Wa'er, was hosting 2,100 individuals. We were told that the shelter had been receiving five families a day since the recent conflict escalation. People living there have minimal sanitation, little water, and no electricity. Food and medicine were in short supply, and there was an urgent need for mattresses, blankets, and hygiene kits.

In addition to our focus on trying to deliver additional humanitarian relief to the affected population in and around Al Wa'er, UNHCR is also prepositioning relief items in other areas of Homs itself as a contingency measure for the area.

UNHCR once again calls on all parties to safeguard the safety and security of the civilian population affected by the conflict. We also reiterate our call for all parties to the conflict to guarantee unhindered access for all humanitarian actors, UNHCR included.

Elsewhere in the Syria region, UNHCR continues to be concerned about reported impediments in the way of people seeking to cross borders as refugees. Our Jordan representative reported this morning that some 230 refugees had arrived at Za'atari camp yesterday, with similar numbers at the weekend. However crossings are still significantly down from the levels of two weeks ago. Recent problems with border crossings have also been reported along the Syria-Iraq border. UNHCR is not in a position to determine the full reasons. It nonetheless remains essential that civilians seeking to flee insecurity, whether they are internally displaced people or refugees, have safe passage to areas that are outside of harm's way.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut: Reem Alsalem on mobile + 961 71 911 388
  • In Geneva: Melissa Fleming on office no. +41 22 739 79 65
  • Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Daniel McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 30 11