This mid-year progress report covers the period 1 January through 30 June 2018 and is intended to provide an update on results achieved under the full range of indicators included in the 2018 Emergency Appeal (EA) for the Syria regional crisis. An annual report covering the whole of the year will be issued in early 2019.
The ongoing conflict and violence continued to have an impact on the lives of civilians in Syria during the first half of 2018. Palestine refugees remain particularly vulnerable. Of the estimated 438,000 Palestine refugees who remain inside Syria, 254,000 are internally displaced and 34,200 remain in hard-to-reach locations.
While several efforts continued to be supported by the international community to end the violence, hostilities continued in several areas of the country with dire humanitarian consequences on civilians.
Volatile conditions, on-going armed fighting and insecurity hindered humanitarian access during the reporting period, including in the Agency’s areas of operations. By the end of May 2018, the Government of Syria had reestablished control over all the Syrian capital, following the launch of largescale military operations against Armed Opposition Groups’ (AOGs) controlled areas in Eastern Ghouta and Southern Damascus, including Yarmouk and Yalda, Babila, Beit Sahem (YBB). Hostilities triggered further displacement of civilians, including of Palestine refugees, and caused the massive destruction of Palestinian residential areas such as Yarmouk.
Approximately 95 per cent of Palestine refugees in Syria rely on UNRWA assistance to survive and face severe protection threats. They have undergone significant reversals in human development owing to the ongoing violence, lack of employment opportunities and disruption of public services, including health and education systems. Based on a vulnerability assessment conducted by UNRWA at the end of 2017, 90 per cent of Palestine refugees in the country are living in absolute poverty (less than US$2 a day) while 80 per cent are in extreme poverty (less than US$1.5 a day).
Grim socioeconomic conditions also affect the approximately 50,000 Palestine refugees who escaped Syria to Jordan and Lebanon, where many have been pushed into a marginalized existence. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) live in a state of vulnerability due to their precarious legal status, difficulties in regularizing their stay and limited social protection services. Effectively denied access to most public services and barred from participating in several syndicated professions, many live in constant fear of refoulement and arbitrary detention and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In Jordan, a government policy of non-admission has stemmed the flow of PRS entering the country, although the number recorded with UNRWA increased during the first half of 2018, reaching 17,824 as of 30 June 2018. Many PRS in Jordan struggle with limited coping mechanisms and exhibit signs of increased vulnerability, which in turn is reflected in a heavier reliance on UNRWA provided services to cover vital needs.
The UNRWA Response
During the first six months of 2018, UNRWA provided lifesaving assistance and protection to more than 450,000 Palestine refugees affected by the Syria crisis, including those inside Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza. UNRWA distributed cash assistance to 405,193 Palestine refugees in Syria, of whom 52.3 per cent were women. In addition, more than 31,000 PRS in Lebanon and some 16,400 in Jordan received cash assistance. In Syria, the Agency also provided emergency assistance to Palestine refugees displaced following the hostilities in Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk and Yalda, Babila, Beit Sahem. During the reporting period, emergency health care was dispensed through 15 health centres (HCs), 11 health points (HPs) and one mobile health clinic in Syria, while around 31,500 PRS in Lebanon continued to access health services through 27 UNRWA health centres. In Jordan, 26 health centres and four mobile clinics operated to ensure all Palestine refugees had free access to primary health care; and full support for secondary and tertiary care.
During the first half of 2018, UNRWA continued to ensure education for Palestine refugee children and youth affected by emergencies. As of 30 June 2018, 47,585 school-age Palestine refugees were enrolled in 104 UNRWA-managed schools in Syria, while 5,482 PRS children were enrolled in 65 UNRWA schools in Lebanon, and 1,417 PRS and Syrian children were enrolled in regular classes in UNRWA schools in Jordan. In Syria, by end of the school year, a total of 40,954 students had completed their end-of-year exams for grades 1 to 8. In addition, 3,213 students out of the 3,934 who sat their ninthgrade exam passed, achieving an 81.7 per cent success rate compared to the national average of 65.6 per cent. This result reflects the determination of students and teachers alike to persevere and succeed despite the challenging context.
Across all three fields of UNRWA operations under this Appeal, focus was also placed on supporting the psychosocial and mental well-being of children through the provision of individual and group counselling, structured recreational activities, and capacity development for education and other front-line staff on how to appropriately handle children who are suffering from trauma and distress.
UNRWA continued to strengthen the protection of Palestine refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan by responding to gender-based violence (GBV), child protection and general protection cases. In addition, protection response training was delivered to front-line UNRWA staff. UNRWA also continued to deliver potable water, maintain sewerage networks and provided solid waste management in accessible camps in Syria; and worked to resume its services in areas that have become accessible. A range of services to improve the urban camp environment were also provided in Lebanon.
Impact of underfunding
UNRWA would like to acknowledge the continued and generous support from its many donors, which allowed the Agency to maintain emergency assistance to Palestine refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. However, the severe funding shortfall faced by UNRWA since the beginning of 2018 has impacted on the Agency’s emergency operations in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. For the Syria regional crisis, a total of US$ 409 million is required to cover the cost of the emergency interventions in 2018. As of 30 June 2018, however, only US$ 58.3 million has been received, covering 14.2 per cent of needs and leaving a funding shortfall of US$ 350.6 million.
While the Agency continued to implement its mandate in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions - the Syria EA funding gap forced UNRWA to scale down operations during the first half of the year, particularly with regard to the provision of cash assistance, livelihoods, vocational training and safety and security. During the reporting period, UNRWA in Syria was able to provide two rounds of cash assistance, mainly through a large carry forward from the previous year; however, the amount of cash disbursed dropped from US$ 64 per person in the first round to US$ 46 in the second. UNRWA expects to conduct only one additional round of reduced cash assistance for the remaining part of the year. In Jordan, due to limited resources, only PRS categorized as extremely vulnerable received the full amount of US$ 40 per person per month, while those categorized as vulnerable received a reduced cash transfer of US$9.58/ per person per month. In Lebanon, short-term job opportunities for PRS could not be provided due to underfunding.
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 and any reduction in such support could have profound repercussions in terms of eroding households’ coping capacities and ability to further withstand crisis situations. Any further reduction in the scale of assistance and services provided by UNRWA will have severe consequences. In the second half of 2018, ensuring minimum life-saving support to Palestine refugees affected by the Syria crisis will continue to be among the Agency’s foremost resourcing priorities.