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Syrian Arab Republic: UNHCR Syria: Provision of Life-Saving Assistance and Supporting Communities - End of Year Report 2018

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Iraq, Syrian Arab Republic
Syria 2018 an overview | Foreword by UNHCR Syria Representative Sajjad Malik As I look back at 2018, some images that I have seen will always stay with me. I remember going on the Inter-Agency mission to Douma in March to bring humanitarian assistance to thousands of people who had been suffering for years. I will never forget the faces of the children coming out of overcrowded basements, in which they had been living for months trying to stay safe.
Their skin was pale and seemed as if they had not seen the sun for days. As humanitarians, it was the task of my team and I to ensure that more assistance was provided to the most vulnerable people in need, and to carry their voices with us, ensuring that they were heard.
In 2018, more than 1.6 million people moved across Syria. 11.7 million people in Syria remained in need of humanitarian assistance, including 6.2 million Syrian women, men, girls and boys internally displaced. As people were forced into further displacement, UNHCR in partnership with SARC, international and national NGOs continued to provide life-saving assistance to those in need.
In the midst of emergencies there was also hope, people also started returning to their areas of origin, some to their houses, while others to their neighborhoods finding their houses destroyed. More than 1.4 million internally displaced and more than 56,000 refugees returned in 2018. UNHCR recognized that there were obstacles to return, and it was under less than ideal circumstances that IDPs and refugees conducted self-organized and spontaneous returns. UNHCR provides support to returnees not based on their status but based on their needs.
Against this backdrop, UNHCR introduced the village and neighbourhood support programmes, within the HRP, with the purpose of reaching areas where UNHCR and its partners identified a high number of IDP and refugee returns. When families returned to their areas of origin, they were in need of basic services to be able to regain some normality in their life. Through this programme, UNHCR together with its partners provided a combination of prioritized services inc shelter rehabilitation, minor repair and rehabilitation of schools, health points and bakeries. By providing these basic support and services the families were able to live in their houses, their children accessed education, they could seek primary healthcare in their local clinic and buy bread in their local bakery. UNHCR through its partners also established satellite centres and mobile units, where community-based protection services were provided through livelihoods projects, remedial classes, sexual and gender based violence awareness raising activities, recreational activities, vocational trainings, as well as provision of free-of-charge legal aid, including counselling, representation before responsible authorities and awareness-raising on civil status documentation and HLP-related documentation matters.
As new areas became accessible to the humanitarian community, there were 1.16 million people in need in hard-to-reach areas.
With access to new areas, more complex humanitarian challenges emerged both in terms of scope and magnitude. Providing community-based protection services to millions of displaced people became more challenging than previous years, especially in remote rural areas. With limited resources, UNHCR managed to introduce new modalities and protection tools to reach out to those in need. By gradually expanding presence, and through the expansion of outreach volunteers, mobile units and satellite centres, UNHCR continued to reach people in need of protection even in remote areas. By the end of 2018, UNHCR reached more than 2.3 million people through 98 community centres, 26 satellite centres, 100 mobile units and 2,849 outreach volunteers in 12 governorates across Syria.
We witnessed first-hand that the children in Syria have suffered the most, with many childhoods being severely disrupted for the past eight years. In 2018, some two million children were out of many were forced to work to support their families, while others lived in hard-to-reach, besieged or ISIS controlled areas and did not access education for many years especially girls. Working closely with UNICEF, UNHCR through its education programmes, provided remedial classes and accelerated learning activities helping thousands of students, especially girls, to catch up and integrate in the national education system.
I have witnessed many young girls who were out of school with no hope for their future, and when they were given the opportunity to catch-up on their studies and continue their education, they are doing remarkably well. They tell us that they dream of becoming teachers, doctors, lawyers and nurses. I met a young inspiring female teacher who, after returning to her home in one of the most destroyed areas in east Aleppo, started a community-led initiative, to provide education to 200 young girls, who had missed several years of school. Through her initiative the young girls could attend catch-up classes, go back to school and be one step closer to realising their dreams of a brighter future. We are expanding such initiatives.
In 2018, 4.2 million people remained in need of shelter, and many shelters in the return areas were damaged. Many families returning to their houses found their belongings and even doors and windows looted and were forced to use blankets and nylon sheets to protect themselves from extreme weather conditions. To meet the enormous shelter needs UNHCR designed and planned the “doors and windows” project, implemented by the community, for the community. Syria is extremely cold during the winter months and even one room with doors and windows can provide protection, privacy, warmth and comfort to a family.
While a shelter intervention as such designed to meet the needs of returnees, the doors and windows project also entailed a livelihood component as it provided vocational training for returnees to be able to install the doors and windows for themselves and for their neighbours and thereby earning an income. We need to continue finding innovative shelter solutions.
UNHCR continued its provision of humanitarian life-saving assistance, including core relief items (CRIs) and winter items to respond to the basic needs of IDPs, returnees and host communities in order to reduce their vulnerabilities and enhance their resilience. In 2018 UNHCR reached more than 2.7 million individuals through its CRI and winterization programme.
The impact of the crisis, including on livelihoods in Syria continued to affect the entire household and explained the higher prevalence of early marriage at an increasingly lower age as a harmful coping mechanism. Some 70 per cent of the population in Syria continued living in extreme poverty and in the light of the severe impact of the crisis, unemployment increased to 55 per cent 1. To reduce protection vulnerabilities, UNHCR, together with partners, including FAO, UNDP and national and international NGOs introduced innovative livelihood projects. We witnessed many female-headed households being sole breadwinners for their families and to support them and others in need, UNHCR offered start-up small business grants allowing people to start their businesses and generate income through small bakeries, hairdressers, barber shops, groceries, electricity workshops, tailors etc. Women are learning new trades, such as painters, masonry works, electricians, plumbers etc. I was inspired by the many women and men that through UNHCR’s livelihoods programme felt empowered to start up their own business and support their families using their specialized skills. Through its livelihoods programme UNHCR also offered talented and skilled Syrians a chance to work again in their specialization, by providing plumbing, carpenter, electrician, sewing, blacksmith, painting and hairdressing kits as well as computer maintenance and mobile maintenance kits. At the end of 2018, UNHCR had distributed 7,323 livelihood kits across Syria.
During the crisis, many civil registries and cadastral services have been partially or totally destroyed in addition to the fact that official civil registration services have not functioned for years in areas outside Government control areas. This year, as people returned to their areas of origin, it was evident more than ever that the need for registration of civil documentation was immense.
Children born without medical birth notifications or from sexual and gender based violence, leaving them unregistered and at risk of potential statelessness. The lack of certificates of death and divorce endanger widowed or divorced women by limiting their ability to inherit property, legally remarry, or register children born. Housing, land and property rights are more difficult to enforce in the absence of identity documentation. Furthermore, the lack of national ID cards limits freedom of movement.
UNHCR addressed these constraints and challenges through technical and material support to enable Syrian IDPs, returnees and host communities to access and register vital events and issue civil documentation in order to ensure that registration procedures are inclusive, non-discriminatory and age- and gender-sensitive. Legal aid programmes need to expand with more partners. We also need to continue working with the Ministry of Interior and Directorate of Civil Affairs on removing obstacles, by way of advocating for reduction of fees and facilitation of issuance of civil documentation.
UNHCR also in cooperation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates and Ministry of Interior drafted a civil documentation booklet which was formulated in simple language, questions and answers and provided information on the procedures needed to issue civil documents and register civil events. 200,000 copies were distributed through partners, community centres, and civil affairs offices in 14 governorates, immigration departments, medical facilities and diplomatic missions in five countries in the region (Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan), to raise awareness of IDPs, returnees and host communities on the importance and the procedures of registering civil events.
The refugee community continued to be generously hosted in Syria, however affected by the protracted crisis, facing multiple displacements, first from their country of origin and second inside Syria. UNHCR prioritized activities aimed at mitigating the impact of the crisis on the refugee and asylum-seeker population, as well as core protection activities, such as advocacy to preserve the asylum space, prevention of refoulement and detention, addressing SGBV and child protection concerns, mobilizing the community to strengthen community-based protection mechanisms and conducting registration and refugee status determination, finding resettlement opportunities as well as providing documentation to enhance their legal protection.
The 49,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from Iraq, Sudan and Yemen in Syria have shown great resilience through eight years of crisis, hoping for a better future.
As I look back on this year I recall always being amazed by the resilience of the youth and children that I saw during my missions that I conducted together with my teams across Syria, including to; Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Qamishli, Al Hasakeh, Ar-Raqqa, Dar #39;a,
As-Sweida and Rural Damascus. I remember being on a mission in Eastern Ghouta in December and we had driven some 15 km through rural areas with not many people in sight from Kafr Batna town to a village – Deir Salmain. As we entered the village we reached a school that UNHCR’s partner Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD) had rehabilitated with community help by providing doors and windows. Hundreds of children had just finished class and they ran out with big smiles on their faces and I remember my team saying – the children are the future – they are what gives us hope.
I have witnessed first-hand how Syrians are eager to look to the future though the ever-present pain and trauma is still there.
We are constantly learning from them, and the hope and the resilience of the Syrian people give us the strength and courage to continue our important but challenging work on the ground.
I want to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of the work of international and national NGOs in Syria, without whom UNHCR would not be able to continue its work across Syria. A special thanks to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) for their continuous support and cooperation in these last eight years.
Furthermore, through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Interior signed in 2017, UNHCR supported Civil Registries in 12 governorates which resulted in an impact of 100 % of increased access to various civil documents. In 2018 minor repair and rehabilitation and technical in kind support were provided in six key locations to additional civil registries, one court and one window project, to rehabilitate their functionality and to enhance their capacities to respond to the huge needs of returnees in relation to civil documentation including birth, marriage, divorce, and death and issuing the vital civil documents.
The partnership with Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour enabled the establishment and continuous support to 207 community-based child protection structures in various locations across the country (shelters, schools and through community centres in 11 governorate), namely children’s clubs and child welfare committees. In 2018 arrangements were initiated with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education to set up systems and procedures to integrate education certificates of returning students.
The shelter sector continued to be co-led by UNHCR and Ministry of Local Administration and Environment (MoLAE). Shelter sector partners continued to collectively provide need-based shelter assistance and ranging from the provision of emergency shelter to durable shelter supports.
I want to stress the important work that the humanitarian community and all the UN agencies in Syria are conducting, respectively, and together to respond to the immense humanitarian needs.
I also want to thank all our donors for their generous support in 2018, with the help of our donors we were able to provide humanitarian assistance, protection and hope to millions of Syrians in need.
For 2019 and beyond, I hope for a better future for the Syrian people, a future where families are reunited in their homes, where children can attend schools that have heating and desks, where adolescents, youth and especially girls, can fulfill their dreams with no fear and can graduate and become doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers and lawyers and strengthen the communities across Syria.


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