After almost a decade of war, Syria’s crisis is marked by unparalleled suffering and needs. Syria counts close to 7 million internally displaced, the largest number worldwide, while another 5.6 million Syrians have fled across borders. A ceasefire in Northwest Syria since early 2020 has not prevented clashes in Idlib where the humanitarian situation remains alarming. With only half of the health facilities fully functioning, and increasing economic hardship across the country, a surge in coronavirus cases is worrying. The EU continues to be a major humanitarian donor to Syrians in need.
What are the needs?
Around 2.7 million people remain displaced in northwest Syria, having fled fighting multiple times. The majority remains dependent on humanitarian aid: a UN Security Council resolution on cross-border assistance from Turkey offers a vital lifeline that needs to be maintained. Recent coronavirus restrictions, including cross-border movements, have limited supplies and driven up prices while opportunities to earn an income have decreased.
Shelter, healthcare, food, water, sanitation, education and protection remain urgent needs, especially in the North. However, a collapsing economy affecting the country has left millions of internally displaced people who recently returned home, struggling to meet their most basic needs. Although aid is vital, restrictions and bureaucratic impediments continue to hamper the work of humanitarian organisations.
According to the World Food Programme, 9.3 million people - 46% of the population – are facing food shortages. The increasing vulnerability of families is further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed another 1.4 million people into food insecurity. The crisis is characterised by continued violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.
How are we helping?
The EU and its Member States are the leading donors of international aid towards those affected by war in Syria. Since the start of the crisis in 2011, more than €20 billion has been mobilised to support the most vulnerable Syrians inside the country and across the region. The EU has been the driving force of the Syria pledging conferences, which took place in Brussels for 4 consecutive years (2017-2020).
In 2020, the European Commission alone mobilised €197 million in humanitarian aid, enabling partners to reach millions of people with vital assistance inside Syria. This includes close to €40 million to respond to the needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the latest escalation of fighting in northern Syria and the threat of COVID-19, the EU repeatedly called for a ceasefire which eventually came into effect on 5 March 2020. In light of numerous attacks on civilians, hospitals, and schools during the past decade, the EU has continuously urged all parties to the conflict to allow unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to people in need. It also repeatedly called for the respect of International Humanitarian Law.
After the latest mass displacement of populations in early 2020, EU humanitarian partners ramped up their emergency assistance. They also adapted ongoing programmes to include preparedness and response interventions related to the coronavirus outbreak, a first case of which was confirmed in Syria around mid-March.
Inside Syria, EU humanitarian assistance supplies over 40 humanitarian partners working countrywide where needs are the most acute. They are providing Syrians with food assistance, most often in the form of cash, but also with healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, psychosocial support, essential household items, as well as education and protection. In addition to life-saving aid, the EU also supports cash assistance to build the resilience of people to prevent them from falling back into life-threatening situations.
As humanitarian organisations operate in very challenging circumstances, obstructed by insecurity and continued access constraints, they strictly adhere to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
The EU also funds humanitarian aid in countries within the region – Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey – which combined host more than 5 and a half million registered Syrian refugees.