A Syrian family in Alharameen informal camp by the border to Turkey in January 2016. After six years of war in the country 13.5 million people remain in need of aid in dire and deteriorating conditions. Photo: NRC

Six years of war push civilians to the brink while aid continues to be restricted

Norwegian Refugee Council|Published 13. Mar 2017
Six years since the start of the war in Syria, 13.5 million people remain in need of aid in dire and deteriorating conditions. Half as many are displaced in their own country, with almost five million refugees in neighbouring countries where conditions keep getting increasingly desperate.

“Over the last year in Syria all parties involved have blocked vital aid supplies and millions have become poorer, hungrier and more isolated from assistance and from the world,” said NRC’s Middle East Regional Director Carsten Hansen. “We join the rest of the international humanitarian community on this milestone of shame to voice outrage at the plight of millions of civilians living in a downward spiral of despair.” 

Parties to the conflict continued using siege and starvation as a weapon of war. Around five million people remain trapped in areas of active fighting, including almost one million in besieged areas who have no access to sustained humanitarian assistance. ISIS now controls over 40 per cent of the country where some of the most vulnerable populations live with almost no external humanitarian assistance. An estimated seven million people are unable to eat regularly, and 69 per cent of the population has been forced into extreme poverty. 

“Millions of children in Syria cannot remember a life without war and risk becoming a lost generation,” Hansen said. “Millions more across the region are out of school for years on end; two million in Syria alone. Their childhood has been snatched from them. Their future and the future of their country is hanging in the balance.”

The latest NRC surveys carried out across the Middle East found more than 20 per cent of Syrian refugee children under the age of five were not properly registered at birth. They risk becoming stateless and face life-long denial of basic rights, which without redress, will also be passed to future generations. 

The majority of Syrian refugees surveyed by NRC do not have their national ID cards—70 per cent of interviewed refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq said their documentation has been lost, destroyed or confiscated. Over half of married Syrian refugees do not have marriage documentation, another obstacle to birth registration for their children and essential for protecting women’s rights. Lack of documents is impeding access to services and legal residence. 

“Refugees are facing a life of legal limbo, unable to access services and afraid to move too far from their homes for fear of being stopped by the authorities,” Hansen said. “But while Syria’s neighbouring countries are facing immeasurable pressures hosting millions of refugees, wealthier countries are shutting their doors.”

Despite the tremendous needs, the funding for the humanitarian response inside Syria was only 51 per cent covered last year, leaving a gap of USD 1.5 billion. An estimated USD 3.3 billion is needed for this year for the UN and humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance inside Syria.

“Aid is critically needed and is being denied by the people in power on the ground,” Hansen said. “Ultimately, only a political solution will alleviate this overwhelming humanitarian crisis inside Syria and in the region. Parties to the conflict should immediately end all obstacles to aid access and commit to a lasting solution to end the suffering.”


Notes to editors:

  • The Norwegian Refugee Council works inside Syria and in neighbouring countries delivering humanitarian aid and services to displaced people from Syria, refugees and host communities.
  • NRC has spokespeople in the region available for interviews and to provide more information.