As the Syria crisis enters its ninth year, the scale, severity and complexity of humanitarian needs remain extensive. This is the result of continued hostilities in localized areas, new and protracted displacement, increased spontaneous returns and the sustained erosion of communities’ resilience during more than eight years of crisis. Syria is still one of the biggest and most complex crises globally, and it is far from over.
Across Syria, an estimated 11.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. While there has been a reduction in violence in many parts of the country over the past year, the impact of present and past hostilities on civilians remains the principal driver of humanitarian needs in Syria.
The widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, depleted savings and limited economic opportunities have forced many to resort to harmful coping strategies. The result is extreme vulnerability. Those particularly at risk are children, pregnant and lactating women, people with disabilities, the elderly and other groups or individuals with specific needs or diminished coping mechanisms.
Last year saw a 16 per cent increase in the number of displaced people in last resorts sites and more than 8 in 10 people in Syria live below poverty line. People’s coping mechanisms are depleted and families are faced with hard choices to put food on the table, a roof over their heads, keeping their kids warm or sending them to school.
A massive humanitarian operation
Syrians themselves, through family and community support structures, humanitarian non-governmental organizations, and state institutions continue to be the main responders to the crisis.
Complementing their efforts, humanitarian organizations have mounted one of the largest responses in the world. As the crisis endures, people’s resourcefulness and national efforts alone remain insufficient to address needs which can only be mitigated through humanitarian assistance. Investments in more dignified and sustainable solutions to reduce dependency and increase resilience are key in the response – but are hampered due to insufficient resources.
Through various flexible modalities, in 2018, the humanitarian response made a difference to the lives of millions of people:
- 5.3M people received food assistance on a monthly basis
- 2.7M people received agricultural assistance
- 6M people received direct water, sanitation/hygiene kits and assistance
- 22.8M medical procedures were supported by humanitarian actors
- 4.3M children and teachers benefited from quality education programs
- 838,400 girls and boys accessed protection services
In 2019, the landscape in Syria is likely to remain complex and dynamic. Hostilities and insecurity are expected to continue, most notably in the north-west and in parts of the north-east of the country, which will generate additional civilian displacement. Contingency plans are being put in place for up to 1.2 million people which may be displaced during the course of 2019, and for an estimated 1.5 million people which may return to their areas of origin.
At present, the inter-agency community is not facilitating or promoting returns but continues to address the needs of those who choose to return spontaneously where they attempt to reintegrate; in locations that often are partially destroyed and impoverished. This entails contributing to efforts to overcome barriers to return for those who would like to do so, and by supporting the rights of the internally displaced to opt for their preferred durable solution.
Key concerns in 2019 will include conditions for people living in overcrowded IDP sites, particularly in north-west and north-east Syria; the needs of host communities sharing resources with the displaced; natural hazards such as the impact of 2018 floods and droughts on food security and livelihoods. Furthermore, the impact of funding-related cuts to assistance will threaten the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable Palestine refugees.