Syria remains a complex humanitarian and protection emergency characterized by over 10 years of ongoing hostilities and their long-term consequences including widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, explosive ordnance contamination and the largest number of internally displaced people in the world1 . More than ten years of crisis have inflicted immense suffering on the civilian population, who have been subject to massive and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. More recently, the accelerating economic deterioration and impacts of climate change have increasingly become additional key drivers of needs, compounding vulnerabilities even further. In 2022, 14.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, an increase of 1.2 million from 2021.
Despite receiving only 46 per cent of the required funds for the 2021 HRP, Syria remains one of the largest humanitarian responses in the world, with assistance delivered to 6.8 million people per month in the past year.
While the March 2020 Idleb ceasefire agreement led to an overall reduction in hostilities and large-scale displacement, hostilities have intensified throughout 2021 along frontlines across the northwest, northeast and south of the country that have not shifted significantly since 2020 and is driving humanitarian needs to a significant extent. Political division, exclusion and the lack of access to justice mechanisms have continued to disenfranchise people and to limit their ability to address their needs in a sustainable manner. Gender based violence continues to be a real and Persistent threat in the lives of many women and girls. The continuation of armed hostilities significantly restricts women’s and girls’ freedoms, such as freedom of movement and the ability to seek employment, protection services, healthcare, information, and Assistance, trapping them in cycles of vulnerability and abuse. Inequitable gender norms which relegate women and girls to positions of subordination and justify the use of violence against them persist across Syria.
Macro-economic conditions continued to deteriorate in 2021, and appear to be worsening further. The combined effects of currency depreciation, soaring prices, reduced fiscal revenue and increasing domestic debt and widespread losses in livelihoods have plunged additional segments of the population into humanitarian need, most notably in areas historically less affected by hostilities and displacement.
In 2021, climatic and human-caused shocks affecting natural resources, particularly water, have intensified. Erratic rainfall in combination with historically low water levels in the Euphrates River have not just reduced access to water for drinking and domestic use for over five million people, but also triggered substantial harvest and income losses, decreased hydroelectricity generation, an increase in water-borne diseases, and additional protection risks. In the mid to long-term, these developments are expected to have serious and cumulative impact on health, food insecurity, malnutrition rates, as well as the protection environment, with potentially irreversible consequences.
Humanitarian Condition and Needs
Long-standing needs of an estimated 6.9 million IDPs remain staggering, particularly for over two million people in 1,760 informal settlements and planned camps, often hosted in inadequate shelters and with limited access to basic services. Households in overburdened host communities and those who have returned to their – often destroyed – places of origin continue to face major challenges in meeting their most basic needs. And as the economic situation continues to deteriorate, its impacts are being acutely felt by virtually all populations. By population group, it is the “vulnerable residents” category defined in the HNO - those that have not been recently displaced, that show the greatest increase in humanitarian needs: increasing from 6.4 million in 2020 to 9.2 million in 2021 – suggesting strongly that economic deterioration is now a major driver of needs in areas historically less directly affected by hostilities and displacement.
Overall people’s ability to meet basic needs has further decreased compared to 2020, with a consistently disproportionate impact on female-headed households, older persons without family support, persons with disabilities and children.
Multisectoral Needs Assessment (MSNA) data from August 2021 indicate that the income gap has continued to widen everywhere with average household expenditure now exceeding income by fifty per cent, compared to twenty per cent in August 2020. Only 10 per cent of households have an income above the cost of Syria’s Minimum Expenditure Basket. This is despite 64.1 per cent of households reporting at least one employed household member - remunerated work, in other words, no longer pays for the most basic household needs. Syria is seeing a rapid increase in the numbers of ‘working poor’, which is contributing significantly to the rise in the number of people in need in 2022.
Across Syria, households are reverting to negative coping mechanisms more frequently than before. This includes child labour and child marriage and the sale of productive assets – all of which increase protection needs and/or reduce households’ capacity for selfsustenance in the future. As household resilience decreases, their humanitarian needs increase. Across the country food insecurity remains extremely high: with an estimated 12 million severely food insecure people, Syria ranks amongst the ten most food-insecure countries globally by mid-2021.
According to recent IDP return intention surveys, the majority of displaced households intend or expect to remain in their current location for the coming 12 months, while a third remains undecided and a small percentage plan on either displacing again or returning to their place of origin. There are significant variations by location within the country and by type of displacement, with those in camps more likely to intend to remain than those residing among host communities. Factors influencing people’s decision include security situation, lack of livelihood opportunities, deterioration of economic situation, humanitarian assistance, increased access to shelter.
Situation differs widely across different parts of the country.
People’s access to basic services across Syria continues to decline, hampered by damaged infrastructure, lack of critical supplies, and a decreasing purchasing power, including challenges to safe and free movement. One of the most pressing concerns is the lack of technical staff required to deliver and maintain basic health services or to operate potable water supply systems, as a consequence of displacement, death or impairment, and lack of technical training. Half of Syria’s subdistricts are at emergency levels because of the lack of healthcare workers alone.
Electricity, so critical to the provision of services, safety, health and the pursuit of livelihoods now is at 15 per cent of what it was before the onset of hostilities in 2011. Water treatment and distribution networks continue to degrade – 47 per cent of Syrians now rely on often unsafe alternatives to piped water, up from 37 per cent in the previous year. At least 70 per cent of sewage is discharged untreated and at least half of the sewerage systems are not functional.
Waterborne disease is on the rise.
With just 3.9 per cent of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of November, and the country recording its highest weekly case numbers in the month of October, the pandemic continues to overburden the fragile health system.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.