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Cash assistance, a lifeline for Palestine refugees in Syria

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At a time of economic crisis, compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Palestine refugee families in Syria are increasingly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. A partnership between UNRWA and the European Union helps the most vulnerable like Ameen make ends meet.

Ameen Eid, a 74-year-old Palestine refugee from rural Damascus, hardly manages to meet basic needs for himself and his family. A retiree and father of five, Ameen lives in Ein Mneen in rural Damascus with his wife and one of his daughters.

Prices are continuously rising in Syria, including those of basic food supplies due to the deep economic crisis affecting the country, soaring inflation and rapid devaluation of the Syrian pound. “The economic situation in Syria is increasingly challenging,” said Ameen. “My family has immediate needs which are beyond my ability to cope with. We struggle to make ends meet.” Rising prices of basic commodities compounded with medical expenses for his unwell wife have put Ameen and his family in financial hardship.

Ameen’s family is eligible for and regularly receives UNRWA cash assistance for food and non-food items. An older sole supporter of his family, Ameen is among the most vulnerable Palestine refugees prioritized for such assistance “This is the only way to meet some of our basic needs, and we need the Agency’s continuous support,” he said, while collecting the assistance from the cash distribution point in Damascus.

Palestine refugees were already considered among the most vulnerable groups in the country. They have been pushed further into vulnerability and poverty with the onset of the crisis and have become increasingly dependent on the assistance provided by UNRWA to meet their basic needs. Over ninety per cent of Palestine refugee households in Syria live below the poverty line and some 40 per cent remain in protracted displacement due to the conflict and the destruction of their homes.

Thanks to humanitarian contributions, about 415,000 Palestine refugees received this form of assistance in 2020, which provided them with choice and a measure of dignity. Funds from the European Union particularly contribute to provision of cash assistance to up to 135,000 Palestine refugees belonging to the most vulnerable categories such as households with a single female or older person at the head, persons with disabilities, or orphans and unaccompanied minors.

Acknowledging the generous contributions of the European Union, Amanya Michael-Ebye, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria expressed his sincere appreciation for the European Union’s ongoing support to UNRWA and Palestine refugees: “The protracted conflict in Syria and the dire socioeconomic conditions had combined to negatively impact Palestine refugee livelihoods and resilience. The COVID-19 pandemic with its attendant negative impact on the economy and jobs made an already bad situation worse. We thank the European Union for coming to the rescue.”

The European Union with its Member States is a leading global donor of humanitarian aid. The EU helps over 120 million survivors of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the Union provides assistance to the most vulnerable people solely on the basis of humanitarian needs without discrimination of race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNRWA and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.