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Syria: 8 things you need to know about the Syrian humanitarian crisis

07 Jun 2013


September 2012, Homs, Syria: The UN has increased its humanitarian appeal for Syria to US$4.4 billion, making it the largest appeal in history. An estimated 6.8 million people in Syria need assistance, as do 1.6 million Syrians who have fled the country. Credit: WFP/Abeer Etefa
The UN has increased its 2013 humanitarian appeal for Syria and countries hosting Syrian refugees to US$4.4 billion . This is now the largest humanitarian appeal in history.

The United Nations and its partners have dramatically increased their 2013 humanitarian appeal for Syria to approximately US$4.4  billion, from the $1.5  billion that was requested to cover January to June. This reflects the fact that the needs of people in Syria, and of those who have fled the country, are growing by the day.

This appeal is the largest humanitarian appeal ever in monetary terms. Below are the eight things you need to know about this unprecedented call for assistance.

1. 6.8  million people in Syria need urgent help and protection. Civilians have borne the brunt of this conflict. They have been killed, injured and isolated from the assistance that they require and that they have a right to expect. This includes 4.25 million people who are displaced inside the country – a figure that has doubled since the beginning of 2013 . To help people in Syria, the UN is now appealing for $1.41 billion – of which $404 million  has been received.

2. Since the war began, 1.6  million Syrians have fled their country and sought refuge in neighbouring countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey) and North Africa. According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, this number is expected to increase to 3.5  million refugees by the end of this year. The conflict is already having a destabilizing influence on the region and it will only get worse. $2.9  billion is now needed to assist those who have fled the country (including 100,000  Palestine refugees), those we expect will flee the country, and 1.8  million people from communities that are hosting refugees.

3. An entire generation of Syrian children are at risk and are growing up traumatized. Close to 4 million  children need humanitarian assistance, either in Syria or now living as refugees. The UN Children’s Fund UNICEF and its partners (LINK: are trying to minimize the impact of the conflict on children, providing support in the areas of health, nutrition and immunization, as well as through education and child protection.

4. The conflict has seen Syria’s economy collapse. Stores are closed and food is scarce. The World Food Programme and its partners aim to reach 4 million  Syrians with food as well as 420,000 Palestine refugees living in Syria  by the end of 2013. Already they have reached 2.5  million across the country – including hundreds of thousands of people living in areas cut off by the conflict.

5. Access to basic health care is incredibly limited. More than one third of all hospitals have closed, and more than two thirds of health workers have fled. UN agencies and their partners aim to reach 6.8 million people by year’s end with a combination of medical treatment, vaccinations and medical supplies . The World Health Organization has also just warned that outbreaks of disease like hepatitis, cholera and typhoid are inevitable as summer approaches.

6. Since the beginning of the year, UN agencies and humanitarian partners have provided 9.3 million Syrians with clean drinking water. By the end of the year, the goal is to increase this to 10 million.

7. The UN has repeatedly called upon all parties to the conflict to meet their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights laws .Civilians must be protected, and so should medical infrastructure such as hospitals and clinics. Humanitarian agencies must be allowed to access all people who need assistance. Aid workers – including those Syrians who are risking their lives everyday to assist their countrymen and women – must not be targeted.

8. In April, the UN’s Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos called on the Security Council to find a political end to the conflict. “My appeal to this Council is on behalf of the Syrian people, but it is also on behalf of all those seeking to assist them,” she said.

“We look on you to take the action necessary to end this brutal conflict.”

The financial cost of this revised appeal may seem high, but the human cost if it is not met will be horrific. A political solution represents the only way to stop the appalling suffering caused by this man-made emergency. If the situation continues to worsen at this rate, the cost of the humanitarian operation will become even higher.

More on the Syria crisis>>

Revised Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan>>