• Reported COVID-19 cases continue to rise, though limited testing across the country makes the extent of the outbreak impossible to fully assess. In February, the Ministry of Health announced 1,540 new cases and 106 deaths, bringing the cumulative figure in government- controlled areas to 15,588 and 1,027 deaths.
• The continuous depreciation of the Syrian pound and rise in the cost of the food basket remain concerns amidst an increase in stunting among children under five in Syria as a result of chronic malnutrition. Nutrition surveillance data shows that up to one in three children in some areas in Northeast (NE) Syria and Northwest (NW) Syria suffer from stunting.
• Humanitarian workers continue to face enormous risks in NW Syria. On 16 February, an explosion in Al-Bab city reportedly killed one humanitarian worker and injured another, along with four civilians. Artillery shelling also continued in February affecting communities in Idleb, Hama, Latakia, and Aleppo, and injuring children, women and men.
• In NE Syria, 26 teachers have been arrested by Kurdish security forces for teaching the central government’s curriculum in private lessons, creating tension among the community and affecting students’ preparations for national exams. The teachers were later released after signing a pledge to not teach the national Government of Syria curriculum.
• In the southern region, the humanitarian situation of the Rukban residents has reached a critical stage with the absence of regular and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance and the lack of livelihood opportunities and basic services.
• Overall, UNICEF faces a 69 per cent funding gap. Additional funding, especially flexible in nature, is urgently needed to ensure that children in Syria continue to receive the life-saving humanitarian assistance.
Situation in Numbers
4,800,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance
11,100,000 people in need
6,183,919 Internally displaced people (IDPs)
490,000 Children in need in hard-toreach areas
(source: OCHA, Humanitarian Response Plan, 2020)
Funding Overview and Partnerships
In 2021, UNICEF has appealed for $ 330.8 million to continue its response in the Whole of Syria. In 2020, the Governments of Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), United Kingdom, United States of America, and UNICEF national committees have generously contributed to UNICEF humanitarian response across Syria. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to all public and private partners for the contributions received.
As of February, UNICEF has an overall funding gap of 69 per cent; additional funds are urgently required to support the ongoing response for over three million people, especially in child health, nutrition, child protection, social protection among others. Without additional funding, an estimated two million children and women will not be reached with nutrition interventions, one million will not receive primary health care and about 300,000 will be deprived of psychosocial support and case management.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Syria continues to rise, though limited testing in all parts of the country makes the extent of the outbreak impossible to assess with certainty. In February, the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced 1,540 new cases of COVID-19, along with 106 deaths, bringing the cumulative figures of MoH-reported COVID-19 cases in Government-controlled areas as of 28 February to 15,588, including 1,027 deaths. In NW Syria, there were a total of 21,164 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 11,552 cases in Idleb and 9,612 in the northern Aleppo governorate. At the end of February, a total of 408 COVID-19 related deaths were reported in NW Syria. The School Health Department in the Ministry of Education (MoE) reported that, since the beginning of the second semester on 24 January, and until 25 February, 118 new COVID-19 cases have been identified in schools in Governmentcontrolled areas, of which 97 are teachers and other education staff while 21 are students. This brings the cumulative figure of COVID-19 cases in Government-controlled areas since the school reopening in September 2020 to 2,339, of which 1,440 are teachers and 899 being students.
The current socio-economic situation creates some of the most challenging humanitarian conditions experienced during the past ten years of crisis in Syria. According to WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping data, the price of an average food basket increased by eight percent between December 2020 and January 2021.The national average food basket price in January 2021 was 222 percent higher compared to January 2020. The increase is attributed to different factors but is mainly due to the continued depreciation of the Syrian pound in the informal exchange rate market as well as fuel shortages. In January 2021, the informal national average price of transport diesel increased also by 12 percent while the informal butane gas price increased by 24 percent compared to December 2020. As a result of this overall increase in prices of basic goods, households’ purchasing power has reduced substantially and the average household expenses exceeded the average income by an estimated 20 per cent . This continued decline in household income and purchasing power is of concern as latest assessments show that already more than half a million children under five in Syria suffer from stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition. Given the current socio-economic situation, this number can be expected to increase. While problems related to children’s nutritional status exist in many parts of the country, the situation is particularly concerning in NW and NE Syria, where nutrition surveillance data shows that, in some areas, up to one in three children in suffer from stunting which significantly affects their lifelong development and learning.
Humanitarian workers continue to face enormous risk in the conduct of their duties in Syria. On 16 February, an explosion caused by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in a market area in the middle of Al-Bab city reportedly killed one humanitarian worker (community health worker) and injured another, along with four civilians. The United Nations has documented at least 14 cases of humanitarian workers killed in NW Syria in the last 14 months as a result of airstrikes, shelling, car-bombs and other improvised explosive devices. With an average of one humanitarian worker killed every 30 days, NW Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian workers. Artillery shelling continued in NW Syria in February, affecting communities in Idleb, Hama, Latakia, and Aleppo. Reportedly, five civilian men and two women were killed, and four children, three women, and eleven men were injured due to the shelling on 8 and 9 February in Al-Bab city and Tarhin village close by. In addition, on 9 February in Bara in southern Idleb, two children, two women, and one man were injured by the shelling. Armed clashes erupted between non-state armed groups (NSAGs) at a public market in Afrin, where two people were reportedly killed, and an unknown number of people injured. This has led to instate a curfew for some time and establishment of security measures, including check points. Several internal and external roads connecting Afrin and its countryside to northern Aleppo were reportedly cut off as a result of these clashes. These clashes further led to power cuts in parts of the city neighbourhoods and resulted in some NGOs suspending humanitarian aid, particularly distributions, in the city of Afrin on 14 February. Moreover, torrential rains in late January and early February affected the IDP population across NW Syria. As of 1 February, some 123,000 IDPs in 309 sites were reported to be affected by the flooding between 14 and 20 January, which has resulted in one death and three injuries with 22,291 tents either destroyed or damaged.
Access to education continues to be a challenge in NE Syria, where a significant number of children depend on private tutoring for national exam preparation, as they cannot attend the limited number of schools that teach the national Government of Syria curriculum. In NE Syria, since the beginning of the 2021, a total of 26 teachers were arrested by the Asayish (Kurdish security forces) for teaching the national Government of Syria curriculum in private lessons, creating tension among the community and affecting students’ preparations for national exams. Private lessons allow for exam preparation in areas where there is no formal accredited education. The teachers were later released after signing a pledge to not teach the national Government of Syria curriculum.
In February, UNICEF in partnership with SARC supported the medical evacuation of five cases (three children and two pregnant women) from Rukban to Damascus. On 17 February, the first inter-agency assessment mission was conducted with participation of UNICEF (WASH, Education, Nutrition) to Darayya city in Rural Damascus since the first returns were recorded in August 2018. Although approximately 40,000 former residents have returned to Darayya, the rate of returns is slow due to the destruction of public infrastructure and buildings and the poor level of public services.