Eastern Ghouta is a suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus that was held by non-state armed groups from 2013 until the Syrian government regained control of the area last year.
Before the war, the area was home to almost two million people, and Eastern Ghouta supplied Damascus’ markets with fruits and vegetables. Today, the area and its people are heavily marked by the devastating conflict that has left entire neighbourhoods in ruins.
Assisting through the winter
This winter’s cold temperatures have left thousands of displaced families even more vulnerable.
Through our humanitarian response in Eastern Ghouta, we’ve supported as much as we can with the necessities people use every day. We’ve distributed soap, hygiene items, blankets, mattresses, mats, jerry cans, plastic sheets and a plastic washing basin in four local communities.
While some families have only recently returned to Eastern Ghouta, many also remained behind and endured years of besiegement. The families we support have witnessed intense conflict, some have been displaced multiple times and lack access to basic services. For many, it will take years to rebuild their lives.
Not safe enough to return home
Eight years of conflict have hit the country hard. 11.7 million Syrians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Last year alone, 1.6 million people were forced to flee their homes in Syria, 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.
"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," said NRC’s Middle East Regional Director, Carsten Hansen.
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.
One of the largest refugee crises of our time
From 12-14 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.
"Our message 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," said Hansen.
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.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is supporting families across Syria to cope with winter weather shocks. In Eastern Ghouta we’ve distributed 3,500 hygiene kits containing soap and other hygiene items and 3,500 kits containing blankets, mattresses, mats, jerry cans, plastic sheets and a plastic washing basin in four local communities.
In addition to these activities, NRC continues to address more protracted needs through longer-term assistance including by helping children and youth reconnect with learning and return to rehabilitated schools.
We also provide a range of assistance which enable the displaced and others affected by the conflict access safe and clean water, adequate shelter, quality education and other essential services.
Read more about our work in Syria here.