Expanding reach of relief efforts, UN refugee agency opens office in southern Syria

The newly opened UNHCR office in Sweida, Syria. Photo: UNHCR/Q. Al Azroni

19 June 2014 – As part of an ongoing plan to expand the reach of its humanitarian efforts in Syria, the United Nations refugee agency has opened a field office and warehouse in the southern city of Sweida and stocked it with aid items for onward delivery to thousands of internally displaced civilians.

On Wednesday, a convoy belonging to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) crossed the border from Jordan and made its way to the nearby city of Sweida with 25,000 blankets, 10,000 sleeping mats, 2,500 kitchen sets, 2,000 plastic sheets and 5,000 jerry cans from warehouses in Amman.

Tarik Kurdi, UNHCR’s representative in Syria, said the agency will now be able to distribute relief supplies in the southern governorates without the need to transfer them to Damascus first. The aid will be distributed to the neediest among an estimated 550,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the neighbouring governorates of Sweida and Dara’a.

Mr. Kurdi added that the new venture will facilitate and accelerate the delivery of urgently needed relief items to the most vulnerable, “not only in areas that are easily accessible, but also in disputed and hard-to-reach areas. This will help UNHCR improve its effectiveness under the present circumstances.”

The opening of the office and warehouse in Sweida is part of a policy aimed at expanding UNHCR’s humanitarian operation to support the increasing number of IDPs – there are believed to be more than 6.5 million across the country.

According to UNHCR, the Sweida office will distribute basic relief items, rehabilitate collective shelters and arrange for the provision of health, education and legal services. The office will also become a hub for coordinating the transport of aid across the Syrian-Jordanian border, particularly to Dara'a governorate and hard-to-reach areas.

Mr. Kurdi noted that other UN agencies operating in Syria would also benefit from the cross-border transport services and would be able to use the warehouse in Sweida.

"Field offices are extremely important as they enable more effective programming and help UNHCR and other humanitarian actors in continuing to implement flexible approaches,” he said. UNHCR also has offices in Damascus, Aleppo, Al-Hassakeh, Qamishly, Homs and Tartus.


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