Displacement Update/ Returnees
1. The highway between Damascus and Beirut has been officially re-opened. UNHCR reported that traffic is at pre-conflict levels.
2. UNHCR has monitored 131,223 Lebanese who have crossed from Syria through the main border crossings. The Governor of Homs estimates that in addition to that 10,000 Lebanese refugees have crossed smaller border points, bringing the total estimate of returnees up to 140,000 as of 20 August.
3. At this stage, it is still difficult to state how many Lebanese remain in Syria, especially since many of them are believed to be living with host families.
4. The demographics of Lebanese who have remained in Syria are still unknown; it is expected that this will become clearer over the next couple of days. Refugees International noted that people who did stay behind are generally staying with host families and will be difficult to reach - most probably the elderly and those with chronic health problems who need access to medicines and are unsure if they can get them in their home areas.
5. UNHCR reports that, although the Israeli raid in the Bekaa valley disturbed the Lebanese population, there has been no influx of Lebanese into Syria.
6. UNHCR noted at the Water and Sanitation meeting on 20 August that although some Lebanese may cross back into Syria upon finding that they have nowhere to stay in Lebanon, the chances of this happening on a large scale are mitigated because of assistance provided in return areas.
7. UNRWA reports that the UNRWA schools that were hosting recent Palestinian refugees from Lebanon in Damascus and Homs are now empty. All of the Palestinians that were staying in private homes are also believed to have returned to Lebanon, although this will be confirmed in the next couple of days.
8. The need for contingency planning has been noted across agencies, in case of the ceasefire failing.
9. In view of the fragile situation in Lebanon, UNHCR is pre-positioning contingency supplies of non-food items for 20,000 people, in case of a return influx of Lebanese into Syria.
10. As noted above, it is currently difficult to estimate the residual caseload of Lebanese in Syria. United Nations Agencies are working with a tentative estimate of 2,500, to be confirmed over the next few days.
11. A plan for refugees remaining in Syria was developed on 18 August with the MoE (Ministry of Education). The Islamic Relief organization also participated to the meeting.
12. UNICEF reported at the Water and Sanitation meeting on 20 August that there are 5 'Rural Development Centers' that may be used to house 1,200 remaining POCs, in order to empty the schools in time for the new school year. These centers are fully equipped with bedrooms and bathrooms, and are located near all necessary amenities. UNICEF estimates preparation costs of $2,000 per center.
Facilitation of return
13. While most are crossing the border with their private cars, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and UNHCR continue to organize buses on a daily basis particularly for those who cannot afford any transportation.
14. UNHCR has also been offering a shuttle service at Yabous border, through the no-man's-land from the Syrian checkpoint to the Lebanese side (Masnaa'), where Lebanese taxis are already waiting. The shuttle service is mainly used by groups of vulnerable refugees.
Health & Nutrition
15. As of 18 August, UNICEF and MoH teams reported that necessary drugs and staffing were available at the border points. There are also primary healthcare centers 1 to 2 km away from the borders and general hospitals 15 to 20 minutes drive away. In the so called 'no-mans land' both IMC and SARC had mobile health teams supporting the returning refugees.
16. The findings mainly indicated that on the 3 borders, there were 2 mobile clinics and 2 ambulances managed by SARC and MOH (or IMC in one case) where 8 health workers and 2 physicians were providing emergency health services with an average of 10-12 consultations daily. 4 health workers were working in the mobile clinics in addition to 6 volunteers.
17. On 17 August, WFP began distribution of 10 day rations for 25,000 POCs in Damascus. Rations included pulses, oil and canned food. The majority of the distribution could not take place, since the majority of POCs had returned to Lebanon.
18. WFP began bread distribution from 16-19 August.
19. At the borders, WFP has pre-positioned 8 metric tons of high energy biscuits, 12 metric tons of canned meat, and about 22 metric tons of bread. Due to the capacity of the bakeries, bread is only being distributed in Yabous (approximately 20 metric tones).
Water and Sanitation
20. UNICEF appointed engineers will assess two of MOSAL's camps based in Rural Damascus and prepare for maintenance if necessary. UNICEF will also be assisting with the maintenance of WES facilities at the 5 'Rural Development Centers'.
21. UNICEF will send a team to assess necessary maintenance for latrine facilities at Qaseer and possibly Arida based on observations made by the UNICEF assessment teams.
22. UNICEF reports that recreation kits for 25 Child Friendly Spaces were distributed on 18 August.
23. Child friendly spaces are being set up today at all borders by SARC and the supplies were delivered on 18 August by UNICEF.
24. Local schools have asked for maintenance support before 10 September, in time for the start of the school year. At the Water and Sanitation meeting on 20 August, UNICEF reported that the MoE (Ministry of Education) has sent assessors to schools and collective centers in order to assess the 'environmental impact' of refugees.
25. The MOE has requested support from UNICEF in order to prepare the schools. (UNICEF has also hired 2 engineers to carry out assessments).
26. Sophie Garde Thomle has returned to the OCHA Regional Office for West Africa. She has been replaced by Mr. Simon Taylor, who can be contacted on email@example.com, or 00963 955 57807.
27. As of 19 August, the UN Flash Appeal for the Lebanon crisis has now received contributions of US$ 88.8 million, while US$ 6.39 million has been pledged.
28. The top six donors are the United States (25.4 million US dollars), Kuwait (20 million USD), Norway (18.03 million USD), ECHO (17.04 million USD), the European Commission (13.81 million USD), and Saudi Arabia (12 million USD). Significant uncommitted pledges of 300 million and 51 million US dollars have also been made by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia respectively.
29. Full details can be found on the FTS on http://www.reliefweb.int/fts.
30. The deadline for cluster input into the revised Flash Appeal is Tuesday 22 August. The Syria component is likely to consist of the following main elements:
- Facilitation of the return process for as long as this continues;
- Assistance and protection for the possible residual caseload of Lebanese inside Syria;
- Recovery assistance (e.g. basic rehabilitation of sites where Lebanese were accommodated);
- Operational backstopping to the Lebanon operations;
- Contingency planning and emergency preparedness for possible future developments in relation to the Lebanon crisis;
- Efforts to further enhance central coordination and interface with the GoS.
- Contingency planning
- Residual Caseload
For further information, please contact:
OCHA Mission to Syria, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Ivo Freijsen, Head of Mission, +963 934 75636
Ms. Simon Taylor, Information Management Officer, +963 955 57807
Ms. Nadia Evans, Reports Officer, +963 985 81824
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.