Now in its 10th year, the Syrian Crisis continues as the largest displacement crisis in the world today. An estimated 500,000 have died. An estimated 6.6 million Syrians are displaced inside the country, while another 5.5 million have fled to the relative safety of other countries.
SRD works in Syria to provide health, nutrition, Protection, shelter and NFI and emergencies response, and other services to Syrian families whose lives have been shattered by conflict.
What started in 2011 as peaceful anti-government protests has since turned into the most violent conflict since WWII. With a pre-war population of 22 million people, an overwhelming majority of Syrians have been affected by years of violence, displacement, suffering and loss. About six out of every 10 people in Syria — 11.1 million in total — are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Over 40 percent of them are children under 18.
More than 12 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began, with almost half seeking refuge in neighboring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon. An estimated 6.6 million people are internally displaced. In early 2020, hostilities in the northwest displaced more than 950,000 people — the largest displacement since the conflict began almost ten years ago.
More than half a million people have been killed by the conflict, though the United Nations stopped estimating the death toll in 2014, as the scale and complexity of the conflict has made it impossible to calculate those lost with any certainty.
The situation inside Syria remains dire. In 2019, an alarming 83 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. A third of the population was food insecure, 6.2 million people were in acute need of basic water, sanitation and hygiene services, and some 2.1 million children were out of school.
For over 9 years, SRD has provided humanitarian aid to Syrians affected by violence, hunger, poverty, injury, and displacement. The volatile situation in Syria has created a dire need for food security, shelter, protection, health care, and more. SRD works to address these needs through comprehensive programs within Syria and in neighboring regions.
With over 12 million9 people in need of healthcare in Syria, access to such services has never been more critical. The dangerous operational context of Syria—including attacks10 on healthcare facilities and healthcare workers, increasing health needs of the population as a result of protracted crisis, and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic—means that services must address immediate and complex needs through integrated services across the health continuum. SRD has worked to provide primary, secondary and tertiary health services in close coordination with other health actors and the World Health Organization. Recognizing that prevention is just as important as treatment, SRD works closely to provide healthcare, while also engaging with key actors in the response to address underlying root causes, which contribute to poor health outcomes, such as overcrowded living conditions, limited access to water, and a loss of social safety nets.
The dire economic conditions in Syria and the impact of the pandemic has led to exponential rates of malnutrition and starvation, particularly for children, 4.6 million12 of whom are food insecure. Vital interventions like ready-to-eat therapeutic foods and infant and young child feeding (IYCF) programs targeting pregnant and lactating women and their children have proven essential for addressing the hunger crisis.
SRD has worked to enhance nutrition services in Syria, and in 2016 we instituted holistic, nutritional programming targeting young developing children. We are addressing nutritional gaps through preventive and curative practices with a focus on both host and IDP communities who are living in unstable conditions with limited means to a sustainable income.
SRD’s Nutrition Health Services have been integrated into our health network—specifically Primary Health Care centers in addition to Maternity and Children’s Hospitals, which, as part of their services, offer nutritional counseling in addition to IYCF consultations and awareness sessions to enhance pregnant and lactating mothers’ nutritional education and encourage them to breastfeed their children.
With millions of Syrians impacted by the crisis, the protection of the population remains critical. Beyond securing basic amenities and coping with systematic and indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, protection programs also address other critical issues that jeopardize the safety, health, and well-being of Syrians in the form of child labor and recruitment, gender-based violence (GBV), exploitation, and early marriage.
The most vulnerable of the population includes women and children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. Initiatives that address early childhood development (ECD), like Ahlan Simsim13 (Welcome Sesame) or the Young Mothers Club14, which provides support services to adolescent girls who have been forced to marry, have proven essential to address both the physical and psychosocial needs. Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS) offer support services, including skills-based trainings to enable self-reliance and self-empowerment.
Initiatives like Adolescent Mother’s Against All Odds15 (AMAL), which includes the Young Mother’s Club (YMC), work to address the unique needs of adolescent girls in crisis. Through targeted interventions, these groups are able to access essential services through referral pathways, including health and case management for gender-based violence. A key component of the program includes curricula aimed at enhancing life-skills, self-confidence, and practical measures for staying healthy, such as birth spacing, breastfeeding, and nutrition. Programs like these are integrated across other SRD interventions to ensure a holistic approach to well-being.
Fixed and mobile protection services for GBV ensure that remote communities are able to access these much-needed services. Acceptance of these programs has only been made possible by building trust with communities and a collective effort to address root causes, social norms, and coping mechanisms that have emerged as a result of the crisis. ECD programs provide vital psychosocial support services to children and families and facilitate child protection measures.
SRD has responded to the protection needs of women and girls through Community Training & Empowerment Centers and Mobile Protection Services. The centers have become a central hub for women interested in education, training, and psychosocial support.
The psychosocial support activities offered at the centers include recreational activities and individual and group support sessions. Recreational activities include painting sessions for young girls and carry a psychosocial component where subject-matters are designed to inspire dialogue on traumatic events. Individual and group support provide sessions in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, developing problem-solving skills, anger management tactics, preventing child marriage, developing leadership skills, and encouraging physical and social activities.
Many of the women who attend the centers are sole providers or those in difficult family situations. The centers have treated women suffering from mental abuse, forced marriage, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and gender-based violence and provide them with safe spaces and risk mitigation in case safety plans are needed. The women can also choose to engage in education and skills-based training in sewing, knitting, computers, language skills, and cosmetology. Many have gone on to use their skills in providing for themselves and their families.
There is significant overcrowding in several areas including in northern Syria and north-western Aleppo. Shelter capacity in northern Syria has been exhausted with no additional capacity to absorb further arrivals, while acces to northwestern Aleppo is partially restricted.
In response to continuous displacements in northern Syria, SRD continues to provide shelter assistance where a large number of IDPs and host communities have been living in makeshift homes and shelters.
NFI needs remained substantial, both in terms of humanitarian life-saving needs, particularly among newly displaced IDPs requiring core, supplementary and seasonal assistance, as well as longer-term needs, among those communities requiring resilience-oriented support to reduce dependence on external assistance and enhance the ability of families to withstand future shocks and stresses.
SRD is dedicated to bringing aide to those affected by the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis today.
In December 2016, fighting between conflict parties escalated in Aleppo and caused a major fleeing of Syrians to surrounding areas, rendering them as internally-displaced persons (IDPs). SRD staff in Northern Syria responded to the crisis escalation by providing the following:
12 AMBULANCE CARS
to transport the wounded and disabled to regional health facilities
1 MATERNITY & CHILDHOOD HOSPITAL
to provide pediatric services and labor/delivery care
8 PRIMARY HEALTH CARE CLINICS
to treat the sick and injured
3 MOBILE CLINICS
to provide first-aid and basic health services
23,000 MEALS FOR IDPS
through an emergency kitchen in collaboration with Onsur Association
1,000 HEATERS & FUEL
4 REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CLINICS & PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT MOBILE CLINICS
26,800 MILK KITS
for IDP children in Idleb and Aleppo, in collaboration with Barada Association
On April 4, 2017, 89 people—one third of whom were children—were killed in a chemical attack in Khan Shaykun, a town in Idleb, Syria. Hundreds were wounded and hospitals became overcrowded with the injured.
SRD’s local healthcare facilities received 178 patients, many being women and children with life-threatening injuries. The majority of patients were suffering from rapid respiratory collapse after inhaling chemical gas.
SRD medical staff provided patients with the care and medications necessary for treating the effects of chemical gas exposure.
400,000 people are besieged in Eastern Ghouta where the humanitarian situation is dire with the impending winter season approaching. Only a small percentage of aid has been allowed to reach Eastern Ghouta’s population. According to UNICEF, nearly 12% of children in the area are suffering from acute malnutrition. The majority of households can only afford one meal per day, often consisting of boiled corn, cabbage, cauliflower or, in some cases, grass or waste.
SRD is providing winter care kits filled with clothing, food and heating fuel to families in Eastern Ghouta.