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Disasters Emergency Committee Syria Crisis Appeal - Final Report

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Syria Crisis Appeal – Summary report

When civil unrest, widely referred to as the “Arab Spring” swept the Middle East, peaceful protests in 2011 soon turned into an all-out civil war, and Syria moved from middle income country to become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The conflict intensified in the early months of 2013, leading to a dramatic increase in humanitarian need. In January around 1,000 refugees a day were fleeing Syria. This increased to 8,000 refugees a day by March, which is when the DEC launched its appeal. The appeal raised £27 million, £14 million via the DEC and the other £13 million directly by the member agencies themselves. Fundraising ended in October 2014 after an unprecedented 19 months, extended from the usual six month due to the continuing conflict and worsening of the humanitarian situation.

The DEC supported member agencies in four affected countries: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Of the initial £5.4 million allocated £4.4 million was used over the first six months, with £8.17 million spent in the following 18 months. At the end of the two-year response period a balance of £400,000 remain on the account, which has been allocated to programmes in Syria only.

The DEC member agency programmes have mostly been focusing on providing life-saving humanitarian aid. Inside Syria this has largely been food, water and sanitation, household goods and medical supplies but education needs and psycho-social support has also been provided. In both Lebanon and Jordan many Syrian refugees live amongst host communities and agencies have given cash grants to help them avoid being displaced multiple times. Some Syrian refugees in Jordan have been housed in large camps, where agencies have helped them to deal with camp life and cope with the new and difficult environment. Agencies have also worked to help communities – particularly children – deal with the psychological trauma of living through conflict.

Although the DEC appeal funds were nearly all spent by the end of March 2015, the Syrian crisis remains one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises and the member agencies continue to run their own appeals for Syria and to seek other donors in order to carry on their work in the region.


The Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia in December 2010, reached Syria a couple of months later, when protests broke out against the incumbent regime in March 2011. These continued into the summer, and by the end of 2011 the country was in a state of civil war.

In early 2013 the fighting dramatically intensified with increasingly effective Islamist militias joining the fray and defeating government forces in many areas. The humanitarian situation took a dramatic turn for the worse, with the number of refugees fleeing the country increasing eight-fold in just a few months.

Faced with an emergency situation the DEC launched its Syria Crisis appeal in March 2013. At the time of the appeal there were 1 million refugees in neighbouring countries, with a further 2 million people displaced within Syria itself. Since then the situation has deteriorated dramatically, with over 4 million refugees and 6.5 million people internally displaced. Over 4 million people in Syria are estimated to be in need of food aid and over 12 million in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.

Nearly every Syrian family has been affected by the conflict. The suburbs of Damascus and large areas of other cities have been reduced to rubble and their citizens left without food, electricity or basic goods. The economy is ruined and food production has stalled. Syria is now the world’s biggest internal displacement crisis. Many people have been displaced multiple times, moving to escape each new round of fighting and leaving everything behind. Aid agencies struggle to reach hundreds of thousands of people who remain trapped in besieged towns and cities and nearly five million people live in hard to reach areas, particularly in eastern Syria. More than half the Syrian population lives in extreme poverty, unable to securely access basic food and household items. They are completely reliant upon humanitarian aid.

Things are little better for Syrian refugees. In Jordan around half a million refugees live in the community whilst a further 100,000 live in camps. They are under increasing pressure, for example the Jordanian government suspended free medical care for Syrians in November 2014 and they are completely reliant upon the humanitarian aid effort which is chronically under-funded. The Lebanese government indefinitely suspended the registration of refugees in May 2015, with hundreds of thousands of refugees now estimated to be unregistered and unable to access UN support and government services.

With 1.2 million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon, more than 25% of the people now living in Lebanon are actually Syrian refugees, putting the entire country under massive strain. The economy is suffering and the conflict is spilling over the border, exacerbating already existing ethnic, political and sectarian tensions within Lebanon. Many Lebanese believe Syrian refugees are unfairly receiving aid and these perceptions are damaging relations between the refugees and the host communities. Some DEC members’ projects have targeted not only the refugees themselves but some of the very poorest families in host communities in order to support those overstretched communities and ease tensions. With savings dwindling many Syrians in Lebanon have fallen into poverty and struggle to access health and education. Some families have resorted to child labour and early marriage to cope and in desperation Syrians – including children – have returned to the conflict to join armed groups who they hope will pay them.

In Iraq, where many Syrians fled for safety, the continuing conflict between the government and Islamist rebels has led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis being displaced. This is putting great strain on the authorities in Baghdad and the Kurdish areas, as well as local and international NGOs. The increasing competition for resources has left many Syrian refugees suffering.

Despite the huge challenges facing aid organisations DEC member agencies have reached millions of people, many of them inside Syria1. However Syrians continue to need more help than either the DEC agencies or the wider humanitarian system can provide.