With most of the neighbourhood in ruins, tens of thousands of Syrians are still displaced with no home to return to, but hundreds have also returned to what remains of their houses or stayed all along.
Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC
A man walks through the ruins of his neighbourhood in Eastern Ghouta, the site of fierce fighting and a long-lasting siege until a year ago. Since last April, the area is under the Syrian government's control but the destruction is still immense, as are the humanitarian needs. Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC

End aid restrictions to Syrians in government-controlled areas

Published 11. Mar 2019
Eight years into the devastating conflict, close to 12 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian support, most of whom reside in government-controlled areas. The Norwegian Refugee Council calls on donor countries to provide funding based on needs alone, and for the Syrian government to remove impediments to aid.

From 12 to 14 March, governments will meet for the Brussels III conference on Syria to discuss one of the largest humanitarian and refugee crises of our time. NRC calls for a scale-up of humanitarian assistance inside government-controlled areas, in addition to continued assistance to Syrians in areas outside of government control.

NRC’s Middle East Regional Director, Carsten Hansen, said: “About two-thirds of the people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria now reside in areas controlled by the government. In addition to the restrictions imposed by the government on humanitarians, several donor countries have been reluctant to scale up funding for programmes managed from Damascus. Our message to them is that people affected by war and displacement have the same right to assistance. It doesn’t matter if the government or an armed group controls the area, and it shouldn’t matter to donors.”

Eight years of conflict have hit the country hard. 11.7 million Syrians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 2.1 million Syrian children are currently out of school. One in four schools in Syria has been damaged or destroyed by the war.

The lack of security and basic services in many parts of Syria mean there will be a need for continued support to people within Syria’s borders as well as the millions of Syrian refugees in the region for many years to come. 1.6 million people were forced to flee their homes in Syria last year alone, bringing the total number of internally displaced to 6.2 million people. An additional 5.7 million people are living as refugees in the region. While some people have started returning to their homes, the majority do not feel it is safe to do so.

“Most refugees wish to eventually return and rebuild their lives, and the international community should help them make this a reality,” Hansen said. “But no person should be pushed or forced back to areas where their lives can be in danger. We call on donors to continue supporting neighbouring countries – who for eight years have shown incredible generosity hosting millions of refugees – so that refugees can continue living in safety and dignity.”