During the first six months of 2020, Palestine refugees in Syria, and Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) in Lebanon and Jordan continued to struggle with increased humanitarian needs as a consequence of the protracted conflict in Syria, aggravated by deteriorating socio-economic conditions and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Syria, a deep economic crisis, accompanied by soaring inflation and the rapid devaluation of the Syrian pound, has caused an increase in prices including of the most basic commodities. According to WFP, the estimated cost of the national average food basket increased by 231 per cent between October 2019 and June 2020.1 The 438,000 Palestine refugees currently estimated to remain in Syria, who were already among the most vulnerable groups in the country, have been pushed further into vulnerability and poverty and remain highly dependent on the assistance provided by UNRWA to meet their basic needs. However, the continued devaluation of the Syrian pound against the US dollar has also reduced the purchasing power of the cash assistance provided by the Agency. During the reporting period, the situation in Syria has remained tense, with fighting in the Northwest causing large-scale displacement at the beginning of the year. Sporadic security incidents were also reported in UNRWA areas of operation in Syria such as Homs and Dera’a. In February, two Palestine refugees were killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Dera’a camp, while an Agency staff member and an UNRWA student were killed in rural Dera’a in March, following an outbreak of armed violence.
The living conditions of the almost 27,000 PRS in Lebanon have deteriorated sharply due to the political and economic crisis that has affected the country since October 2019. PRS in Lebanon were already living in extreme vulnerability due to their precarious legal status, marginalization, and restricted access to basic services and employment opportunities. Over the reporting period, the devaluation of the Lebanese pound and the subsequent increase in prices have negatively affected the general population’s ability to purchase basic food items, with particularly harsh impacts for the most vulnerable groups including PRS.
Difficult socio-economic conditions, poverty and protection concerns also continued to affect the 17,500 PRS in Jordan.
Those without Jordanian documents (about a third of the total PRS population) remain particularly vulnerable, and continue to face the risk of arrest, detention and potential forced return to Syria.
In all three fields, COVID-19 has added to the burden on Palestine refugees. Due to the lockdowns and other restrictive measures imposed to contain the spread of the virus, many Palestine refugees have lost their sources of income. Since June 2020, a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases has been reported in Syria and in Lebanon, where national health systems are already struggling with multiple crises. In Jordan, a steady increase in the daily number of cases has also been observed since August.