UNHCR makes progress in assisting up to 500,000 people in Syria by year's end
GENEVA, November 13 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is making progress in a major effort to provide aid to up to 500,000 people in Syria by the end of this year, despite recent disruptions to operations due to insecurity.
UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said family aid packages had been distributed to some 59,000 families, or about 295,000 people. The emergency packages contain non-food humanitarian supplies ranging from blankets and clothing to cooking kits and jerry cans. These are aimed at helping families meet basic needs during the coming winter.
"Unfortunately, recent deliveries have been very difficult. Last week, humanitarian operations were disrupted on at least two days in Damascus because of insecurity. Similar difficulties were experienced by staff working in Aleppo, and we are temporarily withdrawing staff from north-eastern Hassakeh governorate," Fleming told journalists in Geneva.
Insecurity over the past few weeks has also resulted in loss of aid supplies, including some 13,000 blankets destroyed in a Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse in Aleppo that was apparently hit by a shell. In addition, a truck carrying 600 blankets was hijacked on its way to Adra, outside Damascus.
Nevertheless, progress has been made. "Yesterday, we were able to deliver nearly 5,000 mattresses and 500 hygiene kits to Aleppo, Hassakeh and Adra. We also continue with the provision of education materials and cash assistance for families," Fleming revealed.
In Hassakeh, 10,500 displaced children have received individual school kits. And cash assistance of US$150 per family has been provided to nearly 12,100 displaced families in Al Nabek (rural Damascus) and in Hassakeh governorate. Up to 2.5 million Syrians are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance.
Meanwhile, the number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration throughout the surrounding region has surpassed 407,000 and continues to climb. There are tens of thousands more who have not registered.
The past week saw increasing arrivals in Turkey, Jordan and northern Iraq. As of Saturday, an estimated 115,000 Syrians were in 14 government-run camps in Turkey, with another 60,000-70,000 believed to be living outside camps. Numbers crossing the border have fallen since late last week, with 2,340 arriving between Saturday and yesterday and 1,363 returning to Syria.
Jordan, meanwhile, received 4,045 new arrivals in the week up to last Saturday, the highest weekly total since September 1. Last Thursday also saw the highest daily number of arrivals in two months - 879. The number of refugees registered or awaiting registration in Jordan now stands at more than 116,000, with over 70 per cent living outside camps.
At the Za'atri refugee camp north of Amman, UNHCR engineers and site planners are working with the refugees to improve conditions, including advising on drainage techniques now that the rainy season is here. Tools and coarse rock were provided yesterday to those whose tents are in low-lying areas. Rock been spread throughout the camp as part of efforts to reduce dust in the dry season and improve drainage in the rainy months.
In northern Iraq, the Kurdistan region saw an increase in new refugees for the week up to November 7, with 3,171 Syrian arrivals - predominantly Syrian Kurds. Nearly 1,500 more were registered between Thursday and Sunday. The number of Syrian refugees in Iraq is now more than 50,000, including over 42,000 in the Kurdistan Region and another 8,400 in Anbar and other governorates to the south.
While the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon remains stable, UNHCR is stepping up its efforts to register refugees in need. "In the north and south of Lebanon, we continue to register refugees at our centralized registration premises, while also using mobile registration teams to reach those who cannot reach the established centres," UNHCR's Fleming said in Geneva.
In the Bekaa Valley, mobile registration was concluded in Al-Qaa targeting refugees settled in Hermel, Fakeha, Jdeideh, and Al-Qaa. More than 6,000 people were registered in a single week, bringing the number of registered and waiting to be registered refugees in Lebanon to more than 118,600.
A recent positive development was the Lebanese government's announcement to waive visa renewal fees for Syrian refugees, but the government has also expressed its hope that the international community would help to cover the lost revenue associated with those fees. UNHCR is liaising with the government to ensure that this new policy is implemented throughout the country.
With temperatures now dropping in the mountainous north and Bekaa Valley, UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have focused distribution efforts on providing winter items such as mattresses, blankets and winter clothes. UNHCR, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children also selected 35 schools around Lebanon who received fuel vouchers to help warm schools during winter.
Efforts are continuing to rehabilitate collective shelters and host family homes; erect prefabricated houses and temporary shelters; and provide cash to landlords and to vulnerable refugees unable to pay rent. "However, it is urgent that we strengthen these efforts in conjunction with the government of Lebanon to improve living conditions for refugees in Lebanon, while enhancing preparedness in the case of a larger influx," Fleming stressed.