Syrians forced by the ongoing violence to leave their homes are often displaced more than once and are concentrated around Aleppo and rural Damascus, the United Nations emergency relief arm today said, as aid agencies faced bureaucratic hurdles and insecurity trying to reach hard-to-access areas.
Characterizing the situation as “large-scale and fluid,” the spokesman for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Jens Laerke, told journalists in Geneva that over the past few months, the number of internally displaced Syrians “has more than doubled, from an estimated two million to 4.25 million people.”
The highest concentration of internally-displaced Syrians – many of whom have been forced to move multiple times – is in the northern city of Aleppo, at 1.25 million people, followed by the rural area around the capital Damascus, with 705,200, Mr. Laerke said.
The spokesperson added that of the approximate 6.8 million people inside Syria in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, children make up nearly half.
In her briefing to the UN Security Council last month, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said OCHA and its aid partners faced a litany of hurdles to reach families in need, including visas delayed for up to two months, a three-day notice requirement imposed on all aid convoys and other bureaucratic delays, dozens of road blocks, and a reduction of approved non-Government Organizations (NGOs) from 110 to 29.
“From January to April, some 764,000 people have been reached through UN-led relief convoys,” Mr. Laerke said. “Out of 10 convoys which crossed conflict lines, five targeted opposition-controlled areas, while another five went to contested areas.”
Yet, despite some progress, there was little movement on the bureaucratic obstacles, as each convoy needed authorizations at several levels. Mr. Laerke said OCHA “continued to work on that” with the Syrian Government.
He said that the last convoy was on 25 April, when a UN inter-agency convoy crossed conflict lines and reached Ter Mallah and Al Ghan in Homs governorate to deliver food and essential non-food items for 24,000 people.
During her earlier briefing, Ms. Amos also told that Security Council about OCHA’s efforts to bring in supplies from across the Turkish borders to help Syrian families in the north.
“So far, the Syrian Government had not agreed to cross-border operations,” Mr. Laerke said.
Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimates that approximately 235,000 Palestine refugees, almost half the Palestine refugee community in Syria, have now been displaced.
Some 42,000 refugees have so far fled to Lebanon, while another 6,000 have left to Jordan. According to latest figures from UNRWA, more than 400,000 Palestine refugees currently require urgent humanitarian assistance.
In addition, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned in the latest humanitarian bulletin on Syria of the declining access to clean water across the country, “Frequent power cuts, fuel shortages, damage to infrastructure and disruption to water works has led to a significant decline from 75 litres (pre-crisis) to about 25 litres per person daily.”
The UN agency has been distributing some water purification supplies to offset the lack of waste-water treatment and chlorination available in some areas.