- In Syria in 2018, the siege of Eastern Ghouta came to an end by late March followed by Foa’a and Kefraya areas in Idlib in late July, and the south-east of the country became accessible for humanitarian intervention from within Syria. However, in the north-east, international non-governmental organizations remain unable to access key areas due to ongoing security concerns. The humanitarian situation in Rukban camp, near the border with Jordan, remains critical for almost 45,000 vulnerable people.
- Some 2.1 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas in Syria were reached with a multi-sectoral package of assistance through UNICEF and partners. Specifically, UNICEF participated in 15 inter-agency convoys reaching close to 334,000 people, including an estimated 141,300 children in 2018.
- The Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis in the world, with almost 5.7 million registered refugees, including over 2.5 million children, living in host countries. The protracted presence of Syrian refugees has exacerbated pre-existing socio-economic disparities in host countries. The registered Syrian refugee population is expected to remain substantial throughout 2019. Insecurity, physical risks, lack of availability of essential services, livelihoods and job opportunities, and legal obstacles to reclaiming property and obtaining civil documentation continue to challenge the sustainable, voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees to Syria.
- In Syria and Syrian refugee host countries in 2018, UNICEF and its partners supported the enrolment of 3.2 million children in formal education and almost 535,000 in non-formal/informal learning opportunities. Additionally, almost 758,000 children and adults were reached with sustained child protection, psychosocial support and positive parenting programmes, 655,000 children were reached with routine vaccination and 4.9 million people had improved access to safe water.
- UNICEF’s humanitarian appeals for Syria and for Syrian Refugees in 2019 is US$1.2 billion. This includes a provisional funding of almost US$320 million for Syria pending the official release of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan. Funds will be critical to meet the humanitarian and resilience needs of vulnerable children in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. UNICEF is advocating for flexible and multi-year funding, which is crucial to implementing a systems approach and prioritizing allocations to the most vulnerable children.
Situation in Numbers
# of children affected
# of people affected
Over 2.5 million
# of registered Syria refugee children
Almost 5.7 million
# of registered Syrian refugees
(UNHCR, 21 January 2019)
UNICEF Appeal 2018
US$ 1.272 Billion
US$ 1.002 Billion
Humanitarian Situation & Needs Overview:
During 2018, Syria’s children continued to bear the brunt of conflict through exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation, recruitment and use by armed groups, killing, maiming, abduction and sexual and gender-based violence. Children trapped in besieged areas suffered the compound effects of multiple violations and severe deprivations. According to the Syria Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM4Syria), 12,537 grave violations against children were verified in 2018, the most prevalent of which being killing and maiming (over 7,000 children in total). This marked an increase in the yearly trend of verified violations compared to 2,285 in 2014. In addition, one in three children (below 15 years) was conscripted, enlisted or used to participate actively in hostilities, 358 schools and 343 hospitals and health clinics were indiscriminately attacked affecting entire education and health systems, and medical and humanitarian personnel were subjected to being killed, injured or abducted. By the end of the year, there were 13.1 million people in need of assistance, including 5.6 million children (as estimated by OCHA in the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview). Of the people in need, 6.1 million were displaced from their homes and forced to relocate while over 5.6 million people, including almost 2.6 million children, took refuge in neighbouring countries.
The humanitarian situation in north-west Syria (Idlib, Aleppo and northern Hama), an area estimated to host a population of three million people, has been significantly impacted by the escalation of hostilities between the Government of Syria (GoS) forces and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) - particularly in in northern rural Hama, southern rural Idlib and southern rural Aleppo – in addition to the displacement of population from Eastern Ghouta, Rural Damascus and from south of Syria.
Response to the humanitarian needs has been increasingly challenging due to multiple displacements, overstretched services, ongoing inter-factional fighting, high crime rates and air strikes some of which targeting health and education facilities. The second half of the year was characterized by a prospect of military operations in Idlib and the subsequent establishment of a Turkish-Russian agreed demilitarized zone (DMZ) along conflict lines in north-west Syria. However, the DMZ which hosts an estimated one million people has witnessed continued clashes between the parties involved despite the agreement reported as being upheld. To date, humanitarian access remains possible in Idlib, western Aleppo and northern Hama through cross-border operations. UNICEF and its partners continue to deliver regular programming and respond to rapid displacements as they occur. Meanwhile in the north-east, international non-governmental organizations are unable to access key areas due to ongoing security concerns.
The Olive Branch military operation led by the Turkish forces and affiliated armed groups in Afrin district, culminated in the Turkish take-over of the district in March 2018. Mass displacements were reported in Aleppo’s Tall Refaat sub-district and surrounding communities, as well as Nabul, Zahraa, and Fafeen, while an estimated 190,000 people remained inside Afrin district. In south-eastern Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, large numbers of civilian casualties were reported due to heavy air strikes and military operations to expel the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from their last stronghold in Hajin. With the collapse of ISIL at the end of 2018, displacements towards existing camps in Al-Hassakeh Governorate were reported.
The humanitarian situation of more than 45,000 displaced people, the majority of whom are women and children, stranded at the Rukban camp at the Syrian-Jordanian border, remained dire. In November 2018, UNICEF participated in an Inter-Agency convoy ensuring the vaccination of over 5,000 children against polio and 245 women against Tetanus. In addition, essential health and nutrition supplies were delivered to cover the needs of more than 13,000 people displaced in the area. The humanitarian aid was badly needed as cconditions have deteriorated sharply since the last aid delivery from Jordan in January 2018. In general, the reporting period witnessed several dynamic changes on the ground in Syria with the siege of Eastern Ghouta coming to an end by late March followed by Foa’a and Kefraya areas in Idlib in late July, in addition to the south-east of the country becoming accessible for humanitarian intervention from within Syria.