This mid-year progress report covers the period January through June 2016 and provides an update on results achieved as measured against the full range of indicators included in the Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal (EA) for 2016. An annual report covering the whole of the year will be issued in April 2017.
In Syria, six years of armed conflict have precipitated a humanitarian crisis, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths, massive population displacement and untold deprivation. Of the estimated 450,000 Palestine refugees that remain inside the country, 280,000 are internally displaced and 45,000 are trapped in hard-to-reach or inaccessible areas. The first half of 2016 was marked by renewed political efforts to secure a cessation of hostilities, ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian deliveries and pave the way for the resumption of meaningful negotiations for a peaceful solution. Unfortunately, the fragile ceasefire, brokered in February 2016, resulted in only a temporary reduction in violence that was followed by a re-escalation in the conflict. Against this backdrop, humanitarian conditions continued to deteriorate. Approximately 95 per cent of Palestine refugees in Syria are in need of sustained assistance as they face profound humanitarian needs, severe protection threats and significant reversals in human development.
Adverse socioeconomic conditions also affect the estimated 47,000 Palestine refugees who have fled Syria and remain in neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan, where many have been pushed into a marginalized existence. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) are especially vulnerable due to their precarious legal status. Effectively denied access to most public services and facing restricted access to employment opportunities, many live in fear of forcible return and detention and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In Jordan, a government policy of non-admission has posed a significant obstacle to PRS entering the Kingdom, with only 16,445 PRS officially residing in the country. Often without legal status, most PRS are prevented from securing employment, accessing public services and are exposed to protection threats, including the risk of arrest and forcible return. Compared to other refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, PRS in both Lebanon and Jordan struggle with fewer coping mechanisms and exhibit signs of shrinking resilience and deepening poverty that is reflected in their continued reliance on United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) services to cover vital needs.
The UNRWA Response
During the first six months of 2016, UNRWA continued to provide life-saving assistance and protection to over 450,000 Palestine refugees affected by the Syria crisis, including inside Syria and in Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza. The Agency also extended basic health and quality and inclusive education services to Palestine refugees inside Syria and those forced to flee. In total, over 45,000 Palestine refugees were enrolled in UNRWA schools inside Syria, while over 5,300 PRS children were accommodated in Agency schools in Lebanon and 1,400 PRS and Syrians in Jordan. Primary health care was dispensed through 15 UNRWA health centres (HCs), 11 health points (HPs) and one mobile HP inside Syria. In Lebanon, care was provided to PRS through 26 HCs and one HP and in Jordan through 25 HCs and four mobile clinics. Though the Agency’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme, short-term courses and professional coaching services were offered in both Lebanon and Jordan to support 314 PRS and Palestine refugees in Lebanon (PRL) and a further 27 PRS in Jordan. UNRWA also continued to deliver potable water, maintain sewerage networks and provide solid waste management in seven accessible camps in Syria out of the nine official camps and three unofficial camps that were serviced prior to the conflict. A similar range of assistance measures to improve the urban camp environment was implemented in Lebanon.
Throughout the first half of the year, the UNRWA protection response was enhanced through increased coverage in Syria that expanded on gender-based violence (GBV) interventions to include general and child protection. In Lebanon, the Agency worked with local child protection actors and the national child protection system to strengthen responses in Palestine refugee camps, while in Jordan, teams of area-level protection social workers were deployed to facilitate direct intervention and referrals to specialized assistance. In addition, protection response training was delivered to front-line staff, while a case tracking and referral database was established to facilitate accurate and consistent data collection and analysis.
Impact of Underfunding
UNRWA would like to acknowledge the continued and generous support of its many donors that have allowed the Agency to extend emergency assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria and PRS in Lebanon and Jordan. The 2016 EA requires a total of US$ 413.9 million to cover the overall cost of the emergency interventions. As of 30 September 2016, however, only US$ 142,814,183 had been received, covering 35 per cent of needs and leaving a funding gap of US$ 271.1 million. This translates into a shortfall against need of 66 per cent in Syria, 61 per cent in Lebanon and 64 per cent in Jordan.
The EA funding gap prevented UNRWA from implementing the full range of emergency assistance measures planned for the first half of the year, particularly with regard to the provision of cash and food, shelter interventions, and the provision of livelihood support. During the reporting period, available resources in Syria were sufficient for two out of three rounds of cash assistance, covering only four months of need. In Lebanon, a rapid deterioration in the urban environment inside camps became more evident, while in Jordan, cash assistance was curtailed, affecting the Agency’s ability to respond to basic needs, including the provision of winterization assistance. Moreover, the Agency had to delay the start of livelihood support in Syria and decrease the number of technical and vocational training courses offered in both Lebanon and Jordan. Across all three fields, requirements for the emergency shelter response were left unmet.
The emergency services provided by UNRWA constitute the minimum support necessary to meet the critical needs of Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in Syria. Any reduction in planned assistance could have further profound repercussions in terms of eroding household coping capacities and their ability to further withstand crisis situations. Anecdotal evidence already suggests shrinking household resilience and an increased reliance on damaging coping strategies, such as the selling of critical assets, withdrawing children from school and cutting back on nutritious foods and/or health care. Into the second half of 2016, ensuring minimum life-saving support to Palestine refugees affected by the Syria crisis will continue to be among the Agency’s foremost resourcing priorities.