Humanitarian and political background
More than 6.5 million people have been uprooted inside Syria, a country ravaged by conflict, since 2011. Almost half of them are children.
In total, a staggering 13.5 million people are in need of assistance inside the country. An estimated 7 million people are unable to eat regularly. Parties to the conflict continue to use siege as a weapon of war, with 4.9 million people now trapped in besieged or hard to reach areas without sustained access to humanitarian assistance.
The conflict in Syria is the defining humanitarian crisis of our time.
Jan Egeland, NRC Secretary General
The situation worsens
A definitive political solution for Syria in the forceable future is considered unlikely.
Protracted conflict, limited movement of people and goods across conflict lines, and a decimated economy are some of the major factors degrading living conditions each day and pushing millions to the limit of survival.
Across the country, community services and jobs are disappearing. Active and escalating conflict across all parts of the country is endangering civilians on a daily basis and pusing more people out of their homes, often multiple times.
Nearly 5 million Syrians have sought safety and asylum in neighbouring countries and North Africa. Given political objectives as well as strains on resources, the countries neighbouring Syria have now effectively closed their borders to new refugee arrivals. Tens of thousands of people are now massed at border-crossing points with restricted access to basic goods, services and facilities.
Cut off from assistance
Syrian communities inside Syria are now constantly on the move, fleeing dangers that flare up as a result of changing front lines and tightening international border controls. The effect on humanitarian assistance is two-fold. Multiple waves of displacement scatter the population, making it difficult to predict where they might seek refuge next. Shifting pockets of access, meanwhile, create barriers to people in need of emergency aid. Besieged and hard-to-reach areas are nearly impenetrable.
People we helped in Syria in 2016
NRC in Syria
In one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, we bring lifesaving aid to Syrians trapped in war.
Last year, we reached almost 600,000 people inside Syria with humanitarian assistance. Syrian refugees also received our help in neighbouring countries. If you're interested in what we do for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, read about our work in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. We are also on the ground in Greece and Serbia, assisting Syrians and others who seek safety in Europe.
NRC is one of few agencies to operate across the whole country. Against a backdrop of intense fighting, we work to strengthen our first-line emergency assistance and no longer term aid wherever access and security allows.
Speaking out for humanitarian access
NRC is leading efforts to ensure and protect Syrians ability to access humanitarian assistance wherever they may be located. Parties to the conflict that are obstructing humanitarian access are violating UN Security Council resolutions to allow humanitarian aid to civilians by the most direct route.
NRC strongly advocates the need for increased humanitarian funding to enable a suitable humanitarian response and gain further access to vulnerable populations in need. Only 14 per cent of the funding required to meet humanitarian needs in Syria is covered. We believe that world leaders, in failing to provide funding, are jeopardising the future of an entire generation of Syrian children and youth. Chronic underfunding is forcing aid organisations to scale back at a time when the opposite is desperately needed.
It is a crisis unparalleled since the 1940s. No sitting politician has had anything bigger happen on his or her watch.
Jan Egeland, NRC Secretary General
We prioritise areas where the need is greatest, and the places we can access with minimal risk to life. We deliver aid independently, neutrally and without bias.
In addition to our work inside Syria, we also co-lead the Whole of Syria Protection Cluster with UNHCR and have a leading role in the shelter, WASH and education sectors, as well as interagency advocacy forums.
Emergency response is at the core of NRC's work inside Syria.
- Distribute tents and special kits before oncoming extreme weather conditions. These kits are filled with basic necessities for living in displacement, such as tents and blankets.
- Negotiate access to those in hard-to-reach places, often the most in need and forgotten.
Homs was very good. I liked it so much. But then the war came, they started to kill us and I lost my brother.
Amar, nine years old
Many Syrian children cannot remember a life without war. Education provides them with a safe space, where they can continue to learn and play. We do whatever it takes to prevent the children and youth of Syria from becoming a lost generation.
Our education projects:
- Rehabilitate schools and repair damaged community centres. We build makeshift schools where it is safe to do so.
- Create opportunities for children to go to school or access education through self-learning initiatives, raising awareness on the importance of continuing education.
- Train young former professionals to become tutors for children and adolescents, helping them with after-school tutoring and other forms of informal education.
- Distribute teaching and student kits.
- Ensure education is prioritised, even in the most difficult circumstances.
In areas where people inside Syria are undernourished, and where drought has hit the hardest, NRC works to bring them sufficient clean water and food.
Our food security activities:
- Distribute food directly where the local market does not function.
- Provide cash vouchers to buy goods in the local market where it functions.
- Distribute seeds and agricultural tools.
Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)
Civil Documentation Crisis
Mass internal displacement and the widespread damage and destruction of many civil registries across the country have reduced access to civil documentation. Registration of vital events such as birth, marriage and divorce has been severely impaired in Syrians.
The loss or lack of identity and civil documentation is a critical protection issue affecting 81 per cent of Syria, according to the 2017 HNO. It is particularly challenging for internally displaced persons (IDPs) toreplace lost documents and register births and marriages in the location of displacement. The resulting repercussions are profound, particularly for unregistered children who risk becoming stateless.
- Information and legal counselling on issues of legal identity and civil documentation.
- Counselling activities also involve home visits to reach beneficiaries who are otherwise inaccessible.
- Additional legal assistance is provided to those who are unable to claim and realize their rights themselves.
Housing, Land and Property (HLP) Rights
Ongoing conflict, destruction of civilian infrastructure and mass displacement in Syria have resulted in severe housing shortages, and many struggle to find adequate shelter. IDPs are living in camps or informal settlements, collective shelters, damaged or unfinished buildings, often in very poor living conditions.
According to HNO, HLP issues were identified in 93 per cent of the country’s surveyed sub-districts. Many have faced HLP challenges relating to illegal or undocumented HLP transactions, property disputes, contamination of land by unexplodedordinances and loss of property ownership documentation.
- IDPs in Syria with information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA) on HLP issues, including HLP procedural requirements and rights and how to exercise them.
NRC's priority is to repair and build shelters and community buildings, and to make sure people fleeing their homes have a roof over their heads.
Our shelter teams work side-by-side with our WASH experts as they carry out many of their projects.
Our shelter teams:
- Distribute tents and shelter materials.
- Distribute winter and summer kits containing necessities such as blankets, mattresses, clothing, waterproof sheeting, and mud-proof boots.
- Assist the repairs of schools and community buildings, including water and sanitation infrastructure.
- Work, where necessary, in informal and formal camps and settlements
Water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH)
In Syria, many buildings and systems that provide water, sanitation and hygiene have been destroyed. We work to ensure that people can drink clean water and have proper sanitation facilities.
In many of our WASH activities, our experts work closely with our shelter teams.
Our WASH projects include:
- Distributing hygiene kits, which include soap, washing powder and sanitary products.
- Repairing schools' water and sanitation infrastructure.
- Repairing communal water and sanitation infrastructure.
About NRC in Syria
NMFA, ECHO, DFID, SIDA, Norwegian National Telethon, UNHCR, UNICEF, DEVCO, USAID/OFDA.
Unable to walk, able to live
"Escaping Syria was a difficult decision. Can you imagine leaving what you have been building for 15 years?" wonders Karam.*
Syrian refugees deprived of basic human rights
Young Syrians repeatedly face the risk of arrest and detention because they don’t have the required identification documents to apply for visas in Lebanon. This hinders their ability to move freely, enrol in school or access basic services.