After more than eight years of conflict, the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic remains one of the most significant humanitarian crises of our time. The scale, severity and complexity of the humanitarian needs remain extensive, particularly for children, due to the continued hostilities in several regions, new and protracted displacements, increasing self-organized returns and the erosion of community resilience. The United Nations estimates that 11 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 4.7 million children, 1.3 million people with disabilities, as well as pregnant and lactating women, who are facing particularly high levels of vulnerability. More than 3.1 million children under 5 years and 1.6 million pregnant and lactating women require nutritional support. Grave violations of children's rights and violations of international humanitarian law continue, with children killed and injured by the persistent use of explosive weapons in civilian areas, the destruction of health and educational facilities and the recruitment of children. Years of conflict have dramatically reduced access to basic social services: 2.1 million children aged 5 to 17 years are out of school and 1.3 million children are at risk of dropping out or not learning. Displaced populations and returnees, particularly in the northeast and northwest, are vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases due to unsanitary living conditions, overstretched health services and low coverage of routine immunization. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that over 577,000 newborns require routine immunization and some 320,000 children aged 13 to 59 months are not fully vaccinated. In addition, some 15.5 million people require access to safe water, including 6.2 million people experiencing acute needs. While the full scale of explosive contamination is not known, preliminary findings indicate that nearly 2,600 communities are contaminated, with 11.5 million people at risk – an increase of 1.3 million additional people from 2018. The delivery of humanitarian assistance remains extremely difficult due to active conflict, insecurity and restrictions on movement. Between May and August, the escalation of hostilities has left over 630,000 people displaced in the northwest, with widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure (homes, hospitals, schools and water stations). WHO has confirmed 43 incidents impacting health facilities or health personnel in northwest Syrian Arab Republic, and the United Nations has verified 73 incidents affecting educational facilities. Over half of the school-aged population of Idleb (300,000 children) is at risk of being out of school. The humanitarian situation remains fluid in the south, where tensions continue. Between March and September 2019, almost 20,000 people departed Rukban camp towards Homs, while some 12,000 people remain in the camp without regular humanitarian assistance. The northeast remains one of the most complex operating environments in the country due to ongoing hostilities, weather-related hazards and population movements. Al Hol camp currently hosts some 68,000 people (90 per cent children and women) who are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance. An estimated 160,000 people, including 70,000 children, have been displaced since the start of the military operations on 9 October.
UNICEF's humanitarian strategy in the Syrian Arab Republic will be implemented using the Whole of Syria Approach through three hubs in Damascus, Gaziantep and Amman. In nutrition, UNICEF will strengthen life-saving and preventive services for vulnerable populations, focusing on safe and appropriate infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, as well as micronutrient interventions. Increasing access to life-saving and coordinated, equitable health services for the most vulnerable will remain a priority, including through the Expanded Programme on Immunization for children under 5 years and supplementary immunization activities in hard-to-reach and newly accessible areas.
Cross-cutting issues such as gender and age will be integrated throughout the response. The water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) strategy will continue to focus on the restoration and maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure to build resilience, and UNICEF will continue to deliver lifesaving interventions such as emergency water; sanitation support for solid waste facilities; supply distribution; and hygiene promotion for the most vulnerable. Equitable access to education will be scaled up, in line with the No Lost Generation initiative, focusing on areas with severe needs, to support alternative learning, self-learning, early learning and quality of education, including through access to learning spaces. UNICEF will increase its focus on adolescents and young people through cross-sectoral services, life-skills programmes, vocational education and entrepreneurship training.
UNICEF will work to enhance equitable access to quality child protection services, including for children with disabilities, by improving the quality of community-based child protection services, facilitating community and psychosocial support interventions and improving the quality of specialized services for survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse. UNICEF will continue to engage in social protection schemes that combine regular cash distribution with case management, primarily targeting families of children with disabilities. Gender-based violence risk mitigation will be strengthened across all sectors, and programming on the prevention of and response to sexual exploitation and abuse will be scaled up using a survivor-centred approach and quality gender-based violence programming. UNICEF will continue to engage with communities to promote key behaviours related to their well-being and create feedback mechanisms for affected populations.
Results from 2019
As of 31 August 2019, UNICEF had US$140 million available against the US$294.8 million revised appeal (47 per cent funded). UNICEF supported the provision of micronutrients and vitamin A to nearly 558,000 children under 5 years, and over 715,000 children were screened for acute malnutrition. While the nutrition response in Idleb was severely challenged by the escalation of conflict, UNICEF provided life-saving treatment to 4,700 children under 5 years affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM) throughout the country. With UNICEF support, 1.3 million women and children benefited from free medical consultations through 120 mobile and fixed health centres in all 14 governorates, while 2.5 million caregivers were reached with health promotion messages. UNICEF supported the immunization of over 308,000 children under 1 year with combined diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccination. Some 1.9 million people gained access to safe drinking water, 615,000 people were reached through sanitation interventions and 270,000 people benefited from hygiene promotion. In addition, through UNICEF-supported water chlorination services, an estimated 13.6 million people accessed safe drinking water. UNICEF supported more than 213,000 children with non-formal education and some 309,800 children with formal education. The back-to-learning campaign reached 42,800 children and caregivers. Over 13,000 teachers (65 per cent women) benefited from teacher professional development. With UNICEF support, some 226,000 children (48 per cent girls) improved their coping mechanisms and resilience and over 46,000 caregivers (68 per cent women) received structured psychosocial support services. Over 326,000 people (51 per cent women) received protection awareness-raising sessions, including on prevention of family separation and gender-based violence. In collaboration with government and non-government partners, UNICEF reached 1 million people (46 per cent women/girls) in all 14 governorates with explosive ordnance risk education. Gender-based violence prevention actions included the installation of lights in camps for internally displaced persons and gender-segregated latrines in camps and schools. Over 5,900 children with disabilities (2,309 girls) participated in a system of regular cash transfers linked to a referral and case management system. UNICEF distributed clothing to 390,000 people to support vulnerable families to provide basic clothes for their children. In addition, more than 103,000 young people benefited from UNICEF's skills development programme, functional literacy courses and community-based vocational training, while over 217,000 participated in civic and social cohesion activities.