As of 18 December 2017, the UNICEF 2017/18 winter response in Syria and Syrian refugee host countries reached over 630,000 children but remains 58% underfunded (out of US$72 million appeal) and 880,000 children remain in dire need for support.
In Syria, the escalation of conflict in besieged Eastern Ghouta and limited access of humanitarian deliveries and commercial goods has led to a rapid deterioration in the conditions of over 390,000 people trapped inside, half of them children. A nutrition sector survey conducted in November confirms a fivefold increase in the proportion of children suffering from acute malnutrition since January 2017. In the same month, UNICEF reached more than 340,000 people in hard-to-reach locations (including 27,000 people in besieged locations) with life-saving interventions and critical services in the areas of WASH, education, health and nutrition and child protection.
In November in Turkey, over 167,000 Syrian refugee children benefitted from the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) for attending school regularly in preceding months, a nearly 22% increase in beneficiaries over the previous payment in September. Approximately 82% of children receiving the CCTE in November also benefitted from the Emergency Social Safety Net programme, which helped reach close to 1.1 million refugees to date.
In Lebanon, UNICEF WASH response to 190,000 people living in informal settlements (population of 272,000) is facing a critical funding shortage of US$ 26.5 million to sustain services beyond April 2018. To pre-empt the funding shortfall, a shift from full service coverage is being undertaken to mainly focus on the most vulnerable, semi-temporary costeffective water and wastewater facilities, and the establishment of a surveillance mechanism to identify possible communicable disease outbreak and trigger an immediate Health and WASH joint response.
The number of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) in Egypt has increased to nearly 2,500 in 2017 compared to 1,800 last year including some Syrian refugees. Key needs identified for this highly vulnerable group include legal documentation, legal support, cash assistance, education and child protection services.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs: Humanitarian needs remained critical in Syria throughout November. Though the overall level of violence decreased in some areas of the country (primarily those linked to de-escalation zones in southern Syria, northern Homs), violence escalated and or remained high elsewhere such as in Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Raqqa and Deir-Ez-Zour where fighting and anti-ISIL operations continue to inflict high civilian casualties. The escalation of conflict in besieged Eastern Ghouta along with limited access of humanitarian and commercial shipments has led to a rapid deterioration in the conditions of over 390,000 people trapped inside, especially children. A nutrition sector survey conducted in November confirms a fivefold increase in the proportion of children suffering from acute malnutrition since the last survey conducted in January 20171 .
Furthermore, fighting between armed opposition groups Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Nour al-Din al-Zenki (NDZ) led to the disruption of humanitarian services in western rural Aleppo. Some humanitarian services were suspended from November 14 to 18 over concerns for the security of staff. Clashes between non-state armed groups (NSAGs) and the Government of Syria resulted in shelling in southern rural Aleppo, triggering a displacement of more than 10,000 residents and 2,600 internally displaced people (IDPs)2 .
A rise in military clashes led to a displacement of more than 90,000 IDPs from As-Saan, Hamra and Oqierbat in Hama governorate and Tamanah in southern Idleb to move northward into Idleb governorate in the past two months.3 In Raqqa, displaced populations are returning to areas with a high prevalence of unexploded ordinances and landmines. Humanitarian partners estimate more than 200 related trauma cases since cessation of military activities in Raqqa City, particularly among children, highlighting the importance of scalingup life-saving mine risk education in prior active conflict zones. The destruction of education and health4 infrastructure along with further attacks and internal displacement continues to limit access to these essential services for children throughout the country. Subsequently, an estimated 1.7 million children remain out-of-school and 200,000 others have missed-out on basic immunization and polio.
In total, Jordan now hosts 2.7 million refugees, including 655,588 registered Syrian refugees (51 per cent children)5 . A population of approximately 40,000 Syrians remain along Jordan’s northeast desert border near Rukban, of whom 80 per cent are estimated to be women and children, with a significant percentage of households headed by females. Since the closure of the border in June 2016, only modest support has been possible from the Jordanian side of the berm, including the provision of safe water and access to basic health services, primarily through the UN and in close coordination with the Jordanian Armed Forces. The UNICEF-supported clinic near Rukban has provided around 500 medical consultations in November, a decrease from services provided in the previous month (1,002 consultations) due to limited access. The daily provision of safe water by UNICEF and access to some health services remain the only regular humanitarian assistance available for the vulnerable population at the Berm.
Reports of minor clashes between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) armed forces (Peshmerga), Iraq Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) continued in the reporting month, albeit no significant displacement. As in the previous month, armed conflict remained largely far from Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) areas where Syrian refugees reside. There has been no resolution to ongoing political tension between the KRG in Erbil and the federal Government of Iraq since the referendum on the former’s independence in September, however political dialogue is ongoing. As of November, Iraq is hosting 246,974 registered Syrian refugees including over 107,187 children 6 . Although overall numbers have remained largely static, movements continue between Syria and Iraq at the Peshkhabour border crossing. Per information received from border authorities, some 5,100 Syrians arrived in the KRI in September alone, of these, more than 3,800 were readmittances after prior authorization by border authorities to return to Syria.7 The humanitarian situation of Syrian refugees in Iraq has remained largely the same throughout 2017. With around 40 per cent of Syrian refugees under 18, the need for access to formal education remains high. Although Syrian refugees in camps remain well served, Syrian refugees in host communities may not have regular access to primary healthcare, regular safe water supply or adequate sanitation. In this prolonged refugee crisis, there is need to identify and strengthen community-based child protection networks to identify child protection issues and advocate for child-focused solutions.
Lebanon continues to host an estimated 1.5 million refugees (over one million registered with UNHCR8 ). The sudden resignation of the Prime Minister Saad Hariri on 4 November heightened the sense of an impending crisis. While the situation normalized with his return to Lebanon, the incident exposed a precarious political context and its potential impact on the region. UNICEF continues to face critical funding shortages in Informal Settlements (US$26.5 million gap) to meet the needs of 190,000 people (estimated population of 272,000) for WASH as well as for Health (US$ 2.8 million gap). Given the expected decrease in humanitarian funding next year, UNICEF is transitioning towards strategic and longer-term systems strengthening in the areas of the No Lost Generation initiatives (child protection, youth, education and social protection) as well as child survival (health and WASH), while maintaining a more durable humanitarian response in light of ongoing needs and current instability.
In November, nearly 3.4 million Syrian refugees, including over 1.5 million children, were under temporary protection in Turkey. An additional 357,000 refugees were nationals mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, of whom almost 117,000 were children.9 According to the Turkish Coast Guard Command, 2,052 refugees and migrants were rescued or apprehended on their sea journey from Turkey to Greece, almost half of whom were children. The decrease in numbers is most likely related to the deteriorating winter weather, as well as increased border enforcement and monitoring of smuggling routes toward Greece. Under the framework of the EU-Turkey Statement, seven rounds of returns took place for 75 people in November (including two accompanied children)10, bringing the total number of readmissions to 1,469 since the Statement came into effect in March 2016.
In Egypt, the total number of registered Syrian refugees and asylum seekers has reached over 124,000, an increase from the 117,591 registered in January 2017. Forty per cent of new Syrian arrivals are coming illegally from the Sudanese border leading to an increased number of detentions. UNICEF has access to the 23 detention centres where it provides health assistance, including vaccines, hygiene kits and non-food items, with a focus on young and adolescent girls.
The Government of Egypt grants Syrian refugee children access to education in public schools under the same rules and regulations that apply to Egyptian nationals. However, absorbing the number of Syrian students in public schools is a persistent constraint due to high class density and limited number of teachers relative to students. Other challenges to enrolment include strict documentation requirements, safety measures (inside and outside classrooms) and lack of quality teaching in public schools. Currently, an estimated 39,000 children remain out-of-school. The number of unaccompanied and separated children has increased to about 2,50011 compared to 1,800 last year. Key needs include issuance of legal documentation to help qualify for legal support and cash assistance, in addition to education, child protection services.