Syria: UNHCR Operational Update, March 2021

Situation Report
Originally published


The decade-long crisis in Syria continues to affect millions of lives.

Humanitarian needs and protection risks are increasing. The security situation in parts of the country remains volatile and unpredictable and the economic situation is dire including nationwide fuel shortages.

According to the 2021 Needs and Response Summary, some 13.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated an already precarious situation.

UNHCR in Syria provides protection and in-kind or cash assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and stateless people based on identified needs and vulnerabilities.

COVID-19 Situation Update

On 24 March, Syrian health authorities reported 17,743 confirmed COVID-19 infections since the pandemic started, an increase from 15,179 a month earlier. Of the reported number, 1,183 people died while 11,794 people recovered. In North-East Syria the number of confirmed cases reached 9,018 up from 8,592 reported a month ago. On 7 January, the partial curfew imposed by the self-administration in North-East Syria in November 2020 came to an end.

On 26 January, the Syrian Cabinet reportedly approved access to the COVAX facility through the World Health Organization (WHO). In the first phase of the AstraZeneca vaccination campaign, the Syrian Ministry of Health will prioritize health workers and humanitarian frontline staff, including the UN.

Following extensive advocacy by UNHCR, it was confirmed that refugees and camp-based IDP populations will be included in the priority categories in the government’s rollout of the COVAX vaccine.

UNHCR is liaising with UNICEF and WHO to ensure that the modalities for obtaining the vaccine facilitate their access in practice. The Syrian Ministry of Health is currently finalizing planning. The vaccine is expected to reach the country in coming months. A local vaccine deployment plan for UN staff is underway with a team comprising different UN agencies overseeing the modalities of planning for communication, pre-registration, administration and logistics.

Update on Achievements Operational Context

The 2020 Syria Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) estimates that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria is over 13.4 million, including 6.7 million internally displaced people. Of that number, approximately 5.9 million people are in acute need of humanitarian assistance (a 20% increase from 2020). Considering the protracted nature of the crisis, UNHCR and partners provide initial support to returnees and vulnerable people through an area-based approach, which includes immediate shelter repair, rehabilitation of community infrastructure, livelihood support, legal aid, community-based protection, primary health care, and education.

Returns of IDPs and Syrian refugees are ongoing. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 448,000 IDPs returned to their areas of origin in 2020. Meanwhile,
UNHCR verified 38,233 refugees returns during 2020.

Through the area-based and village-support programmes, UNHCR is assessing the needs of high return areas to implement integrated interventions including protection, education, shelter, and core relief items (CRIs).