Foreword from the UNHCR Representative
I was appointed the UNHCR Representative in Syria in September of last year. Since then, I have travelled around this beautiful country, meeting many people, partners, government, displaced persons, host communities and refugees and I have been both amazed and saddened by their stories.
It is clear that the impact of the conflict in Syria has been far-reaching, as amongst many of the heartbreaking realities I saw, it has resulted in forced displacement, sudden destitution, crumbling infrastructures, and the breakup of families. The protection needs of the Syrian population are massive and UNHCR and partners face huge challenges in terms of access and outreach to meet even their most basic needs. In 2015, UNHCR reached more than 850,000 individuals though protection and community services interventions, including through capacity building of its partners. UNHCR has provided targeted material assistance, socio-economic and recreational activities, psychosocial support, legal aid, gender-based violence referral, child protection services, community based initiatives as well as awareness raising sessions on various issues, ranging from residency procedures to prevention of gender-based violence and early marriages in Syria. The collective efforts of Protection sector partners, which UNHCR coordinates as the sector lead agency, benefited more than 3.5 million internally displaced persons.
We have used -and will continue to use - every avenue available to join partners to reduce vulnerability and provide protection to the most vulnerable people throughout Syria. In 2015, UNHCR supported 30 community centers in 9 governorates, 12 of which were opened during the second half of the year. All interventions of the community centers are designed to focus attention in particular on persons with specific needs with activities such as counseling, education, livelihood, vocational training, primary health and psychosocial support activities. Over 1,000 beneficiaries per month are supported by UNHCR and partners with a variety of protection services through a community center. I personally attended the opening of the first community center in Lattakia and was delighted to see the great work being carried out there; I look forward to seeing many more throughout the country in 2016, also in partnership with UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO, as well as other agencies and local institutions.
Despite the challenging operating conditions, UNHCR continues to also provide other types of humanitarian assistance to those in need throughout Syria. In 2015, UNHCR Syria dispatched over 9 million core relief items to 3.2 million needy individuals in 12 out of the 14 governorates including cross border convoys from Turkey and Jordan, provided cash assistance to some 23,000 families, delivered shelter assistance to more than 60,000 individuals and ensured nearly 800,000 individuals had access to healthcare. In October 2015, due to extremely cold weather, UNHCR started a winterization programme, which targets 750,000 individuals with 150,000 winter kits, including winter clothes, sleeping bags, stoves and high thermal blankets in the winter period.
I was pleased to see that, despite the challenging circumstances, UNHCR through its partners including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), national and international non-governmental organizations and community-based local organizations reached out to some 5 million individuals, bringing in much needed assistance. I witnessed the resilience, pride, dignity and adaptability of the Syrian people, in particular of those that have lost their homes and have been internally displaced, and the generosity of their hosts.
Much more remains to be done.
As we move into 2016, let us all hope that this beautiful country and its resilient people, will see peace, allowing them to engage in the process of rebuilding their country. We, at UNHCR, stand ready for this and in the meantime will continue to reach out to all those in need with protection and assistance in Syria.