The Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis in the world, with 5.6 million registered refugees, including over 2.5 million children, living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In 2020, the situation in all affected countries was further aggravated by the the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn. Nearly 19.8 million people, including 6 million children, need assistance.
UNICEF will respond to the Syrian refugee crisis by reaching refugee children living in camps, informal tented settlements and urban settings, and vulnerable children from host communities, with education, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, health, nutrition and social protection services and adolescent and youth programmes.
In 2021, UNICEF requires US$1 billion to respond to the most immediate needs of Syrian refugees, including their education and WASH needs, which have increased substantially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
Following a decade of hostilities in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis globally, with 5.6 million registered refugees, including over 2.5 million children, living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey in camps, informal settlements and urban settings among host communities.
In 2020, this situation was aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn. Of the 19.8 million people in need, including in host communities, 3.1 million people require WASH assistance, 3.3 million children require child protection services and 4.8 million children require education support.
While host governments are providing public services for refugees, vulnerability remains high and is exacerbated by the lack of livelihood opportunities, growing inequalities and economically strained institutions. In Egypt, for example, the unemployment rate among refugees is 29 per cent, compared with 8.9 per cent nationally.
While Syrian refugees and host community households experience similar challenges, refugees face additional vulnerabilities and difficulty meeting their basic needs due to their legal status and the impact of residency and labour policies on their mobility. COVID-19 containment measures have compounded these challenges, further restricting mobility, generating a range of socio-economic consequences, and exacerbating protection risks for refugees and children. In just a year, Lebanon witnessed a 300 per cent increase in food prices.
Major challenges remain in realizing the rights of refugee children. Due to the protracted situation and the COVID-19 crisis, refugees are vulnerable to several protection risks, including psychosocial distress, child labour and domestic and sexual violence. Economic hardship has led some women and girls to resort to negative coping mechanisms such as child and forced marriage. The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 have also disrupted and reduced access to health care, vaccinations and learning, and increased food insecurity and child poverty, resulting in an overall decline in children's well-being.
In Turkey, learning has become even more out of reach for the most vulnerable children due to the pandemic, with access to distance learning limited by socio-economic status, lack of Turkish language skills and limited parental involvement. In Iraq, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis immunization coverage has declined from 96 per cent in July 2019 to 54 per cent in July 2020.
Children and youth with disabilities have been acutely impacted as access to services continues to erode.