Syria Complex Emergency - Fact Sheet #5

Speeches Shim

March 31, 2015

Syria enters its fifth year of conflict

Up to 50,000 people may require assistance after late March clashes in Idlib Governorate

U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Samantha Power announces more than $507.8 million in new humanitarian funding, bringing the total USG contribution to the Syria crisis to nearly $3.7 billion

Numbers At A Glance

12.2 million

People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

7.6 million

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Syria

5 million

People Reached per Month by USG Assistance in Syria

3.9 million

Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

1.7 million

Syrian Refugees in Turkey

1.2 million

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon


Syrian Refugees in Jordan


Syrian Refugees in Iraq

Humanitarian Funding

To Syria Humanitarian Response
FY 2012 - FY 2015

USAID/OFDA $610,870,250
USAID/FFP $1,421,570,725
State/PRM $1,646,725,086
TOTAL $3,679,166,061

On March 31, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Samantha Power announced more than $507.8 million in new USG funding to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Syria and neighboring countries. The announcement, made at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City, Kuwait, brings the total USG humanitarian funding for Syria to nearly $3.7 billion since 2011. The conference served as a platform for UN member states and regional organizations to pledge support to the 2015 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan and the Strategic Response Plan for Syria, which requests $5.5 billion and $2.9 billion in humanitarian funding, respectively.

March 2015 marks the four-year anniversary of the start of the Syria crisis, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 220,000 Syrians and has displaced more than 11 million people, including 7.6 million people internally and more than 3.9 million people to neighboring countries. An estimated 12.2 million people in Syria—out of total population of 18 million—are in need of emergency relief assistance, representing a nearly 30 percent increase since March 2014, according to the UN.

Following attempts by the UN to negotiate a freeze in hostilities in the city of Aleppo, the city experienced renewed, heavy fighting between Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) and opposition forces in early March. The UN And other relief organizations have assessed needs and developed humanitarian response strategies to respond rapidly in the event that a freeze of the conflict in Aleppo took hold.

Security conditions in Syria remain volatile, with widespread violence continuing to generate population displacement and impede humanitarian access to vulnerable populations throughout the country. In February, intensified SARG offensives in northwestern Dar’a Governorate resulted in the displacement of approximately 41,900 people, according to the UN. Displaced people fled to more than 30 locations throughout Dar’a and Al Qunaytirah governorates, and the UN estimates that the total IDP population of Dar’a and Al Qunaytirah—more than 349,300 people—comprises nearly 50 percent of the total population in the two governorates. In Dara’s city of Busra Al-Sham, opposition forces had taken control of the city from the SARG as of March 25 after prolonged fighting, according to international media reports. Clashes in and around Busra Al-Sham led to additional population displacement from the city and surrounding communities.

Following clashes that began on March 10 between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syria-based Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces near the towns of Balujah and al-Manajir in northern Al Hasakah Governorate, approximately 4,700 displaced households registered for IDP support services in Al Hasakah. In response, the UN supplied nearly 1,500 households with emergency food assistance sufficient for one month and distributed 2,500 hygiene kits, nearly 7,000 blankets, 1,500 emergency relief kits, and 400 winter clothing kits to IDPs. The UN also provided two 5,000-liter water tanks to ensure access to safe drinking water. The recent wave of population movement is in addition to the 1,700 households displaced by late-February ISIL attacks on the town of Tal Tamer in Al Hasakah; a USAID humanitarian partner provided food assistance and emergency relief items to IDPs fleeing clashes around Tal Tamer.

Late-February opposition offensives in Idlib Governorate against the SARG-controlled towns of Al-Fu’a and Kafarya, north of the city of Idlib, temporarily displaced between 10,000 and 20,000 people, according to relief agencies. Although the majority of IDPs had returned to Idlib’s Bennsh, Karf Jalis, and Ma’arret Misrin districts as of February 28, a small, unconfirmed number of IDPs remain in Harim District. Up to 50,000 people may require humanitarian assistance following additional clashes in late March, according to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster—the coordinating body for humanitarian CCCM activities, comprising UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders. As of March 25, the UN anticipated that large numbers of IDPs from rural areas near Idlib may flee to neighboring Latakia and Tartus governorates due to the escalating violence.

As of early March, the UN estimated that approximately 10,000 people had returned to Aleppo Governorate’s district of Kobane—also known as Ayn al-Arab—since major clashes ended in late January. As of March 5, fighting between ISIL fighters and YPG, Kurdish Peshmerga, and Free Syrian Army forces continued approximately 30 kilometers from Kobane, damaging approximately 2,730 structures, including health care and water supply infrastructure.  Relief organizations report that unexploded ordnance remain a significant impediment to safe returns to Kobane and will also hamper relief operations. Humanitarian staff have entered Kobane to conduct needs assessments and are prepared to commence relief activities inside the city, including health, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs, as security permits and as population returns and associated humanitarian needs require.

As of March 23, the UN reported that 28 interagency convoys comprising 419 trucks from UN agencies and other international organizations had crossed into Syria from Jordan, carrying humanitarian relief supplies under the authorization of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2165 and 2191. To date, the UN and partner organizations have reached approximately 362,000 people in Dar’a and Al Qunaytirah with emergency food commodities under UNSCR authorization, more than 83,300 people with health assistance, and nearly 480,000 people with other emergency relief supplies through cross-border convoys from Jordan. In addition, UN cross-border operations under UNSCRs 2165 and 2191 from Turkey into Syria had reached nearly 2 million people in northern Syria with humanitarian assistance as of February 17.

During February, food assistance from USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP) reached more than 4 million people across 12 Syrian governorates. WFP also reached 29 UN-designated hard-to-reach locations between December and February, assisting more than 558,400 people in these locations in December, nearly 465,300 in January, and more than 612,000 in February. In Syria’s five neighboring countries, WFP continues to reach nearly 2 million refugees with emergency food assistance, primarily through vouchers, every month.

WFP’s UNSCR-authorized cross-border convoys are supplementing the monthly WFP operation inside Syria to respond to new emergency food needs brought about by conflict-induced displacement in areas accessible from the Jordanian and Turkish borders. In mid-February, WFP and partners coordinated to ensure a sufficient response to the recent displacement in Dar’a, providing additional food assistance to approximately 61,000 people to supplement the regular WFP operation in the governorate, which reaches more than 100,000 people. In addition, between March 18 and 25, a WFP convoy transported 15,000 food parcels—sufficient for approximately 75,000 people—across the border from Jordan into Dar’a, despite significant fighting on the Syrian side of the border. WFP assistance will help assist people recently displaced from areas around Busra Al-Sham and Kafr Shams.

On March 9, the eighth round of the Syrian Immunization Task Force-led polio vaccination campaign concluded in all northern Syria governorates. The Syrian Immunization Task Force reported that nearly 1.3 million children received vaccinations in Aleppo, Al Hasakah, Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Hamah, Idlib, and Latakia governorates.

During the month of February, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) delivered medicines and medical supplies to support treatments for approximately 922,700 people in five governorates. In 2014, WHO reached more than 13.8 million people with medicines, treatment, and medical equipment in all of Syria’s 14 governorates, including hard-to-reach and opposition-controlled areas.

In a speech to the UN Security Council, UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) Valerie Amos highlighted the conflict-related breakdown of Syria’s health care system. Citing Physicians for Human Rights, ERC Amos reported 233 attacks on 183 medical facilities, with 610 medical personnel killed in the past four years.

As of 17 March, the UN had delivered 85 UNSCR-authorized humanitarian shipments to Syria, which included food assistance for more than 1.4 million people; WASH supplies for more than 405,000 people; medical supplies for an estimated 628,000 people; and other emergency relief items for 1 million people since December, according to the UN.

Between January 26 and February 1, a USAID/OFDA partner distributed emergency relief commodities—including winter clothing—to two IDP camps in Idlib Governorate, reaching approximately 58,000 people. Between February 5 and 11, a USAID/OFDA-supported NGO provided 4,500 relief commodity kits to vulnerable populations in Dar’a and also distributed 500 food parcels and 500 clothing kits in an operation jointly supported by USAID/OFDA and USAID/FFP. The NGO had reached nearly 219,000 people with relief items as of February 11.

In FY 2014, USAID/OFDA partners reached more than 1.6 million people with relief commodities, including seasonally appropriate emergency relief items.

UNICEF reports that approximately 5.6 million children remain displaced within Syria, including nearly 2 million children living in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies due to insecurity. An estimated 2.6 million Syrian children were not receiving formal education as of March 12. In 2014, UNICEF provided WASH assistance to 20.7 million people, psychosocial support interventions to 850,000 children, and child protection services to 30,000 children in Syria. In neighboring countries in 2014, UNICEF provided WASH assistance to 3.4 million people, psychosocial support to nearly 900,000 children, and trained more than 18,000 people in child protection and gender-based violence (GBV) awareness.


As of March 25, staff from State/PRM partner UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had been able to deliver food parcels to more than 3,300 families in the besieged neighborhood of Yarmouk in Syria’s capital city of Damascus since early March. In February, hostilities in and near the predominately Palestinian neighborhood forced relief organizations to abort multiple assistance deliveries for the approximately 18,000 civilians trapped inside, according to the UN. The March distributions marked UNRWA’s first successful distributions in the area since December 6. In addition, UNRWA medical personnel have treated more than 650 patients in Yarmouk and, on March 7, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society distributed chlorine tablets to help ensure access to safe drinking water.

During February, a USG partner provided emergency relief items to more than 460,700 individuals, including seasonally appropriate winter supplies for 2,200 Syrian families in Erbil Governorate, Iraq; 500 households in Turkey’s Adana Province; approximately 1,000 Syrian refugee households in Jordan; and more than 1,000 Syrian refugee and Lebanese returnee households in Lebanon. The partner also provided shelter support and rehabilitation to more than 12,000 people, focusing on displaced populations sheltering in unfinished buildings.

During 2014, WFP reached an increasing number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, from 1.4 million people in January to 1.9 million people in December. WFP assists refugees primarily through electronic vouchers, which injects cash into local economies and help local communities hosting a large refugee community. In 2014, WFP’s program contributed an estimated total of $621 million to the local economies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and more than $1 billion in total since the start of the voucher program. USAID/FFP remains the largest donor to WFP’s operations assisting Syrian refugees, contributing nearly $647 million to date.


In early March, State/PRM partner UNHCR reported that nearly 32,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) since September 25, 2014, with the majority of refugees originating from Kobane. However, IKR authorities closed the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing on March 2, halting the flow of new arrivals that pass through the crossing into Turkey and then transfer to Gawilan IDP Camp in Iraq’s Dohuk Governorate. UNHCR reports that the majority of Syrian refugees move out of the camp after registration due to limited income opportunities in the camp.

In recent months, UNICEF partners have reported an increase in child labor cases among Syrian refugees in the IKR. In response, UNICEF is conducting tent-to-tent awareness-raising sessions to prevent and address cases of child labor in IKR IDP camps. UNICEF also reported an increase in the number of out-of-school children resulting from a lack of space in schools and a shortage of secondary schools, as well as prolonged non-attendance and reluctance among some parents and caregivers to send their children to school. UNICEF plans to increase support to partners and increase individual awareness sessions with community leaders, parents, caregivers, and children.


Advance planning by humanitarian organizations in Jordan led to a strong response to Winter Storm Jana, which brought low temperatures, freezing rain, and approximately nine inches of snow to Jordan between February 19 and 22. WFP ensured the distribution of food vouchers before the storm and stores in camps were pre-stocked and open. UNICEF opened emergency shelters, ensured sufficient availability of safe drinking water before the storm, and initiated clean-up efforts immediately post-storm to prevent flooding. Relief agencies disseminated emergency contact information and mass information systems remained operational, enabling aid workers to respond to emergencies and refugee concerns quickly. According to the UN, storm preparations for refugees in Jordanian refugee camps and urban areas began in October— including UNHCR winterization cash programs for heaters, fuel containers, blankets, and shelter reinforcements for more than 250,000 refugees.

A USG partner is managing reproductive and primary health clinics in Jordan’s Za’atri and Cyber City refugee camps, as well as nearby host communities. In Za’atri, approximately 125 women visit the comprehensive clinic each day, with 30 percent of women seeking family planning services. During the first quarter of 2014, five percent of women seeking family planning services were under the age of 18, which increased to 11 percent during the first quarter of 2015 due to an increase in early marriage and women from host communities returning to the camp for services. The clinics also provide GBV awareness sessions and counseling for women. In Za’atri, the USG partner is collaborating with UNHCR and a Jordanian NGO to provide legal aid services to GBV survivors. In Cyber City, the partner provides ongoing reproductive health and GBV services to more than 170 Syrian refugees and more than 160 Palestinian refugees from Syria.


The rate of forced evictions of Syrian refugees from informal settlements and other rudimentary facilities in Lebanon is increasing, according to UNHCR. When filing eviction notices, government officials often provide refugee families with as little as one day’s notice and often in inclement weather, raising security and protection concerns. A recently launched security campaign in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has prompted thousands of refugees to move elsewhere in the country, and UNHCR anticipates that authorities will order an additional 14,000 refugees to leave their current locations. In response, UNHCR is working with the Government of Lebanon to establish orderly procedures and alternative locations for refugees required to leave military and border zones.


On January 25, the GoT opened a new refugee camp for 35,000 Syrians originating from Kobane. GoT Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate officials told media that the new camp, located in the southeastern town of Suruc near the Syria–Turkey border, represents the largest Syrian refugee camp in Turkey to date and includes two hospitals, seven medical clinics, and classrooms that can accommodate 10,000 children.

On January 23, ERC Amos announced that the UN had allocated $100 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support under-funded humanitarian crises around the world. The majority of the CERF funding— $77.5 million—will support the humanitarian response in Syria and its neighboring countries; the UN allocated $30 million for activities within Syria, while the remaining $47.5 million will support activities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

During a January 26–28 visit to the Middle East region, E.U. officials—including the Commissioner of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO)—announced an additional €136 million—approximately $154 million—to address humanitarian needs resulting from the Syria crisis. Of the amount, half will support relief efforts inside Syria via cross-border assistance and the remaining funds will support assistance to Syrian refugees and host communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

On February 8, UK Secretary for International Development Justine Greening announced an additional commitment of £100 million—approximately $152.3 million—to support humanitarian activities in Syria and neighboring countries. Greening made the announcement alongside Charles, Prince of Wales, during a visit to Jordan’s Za’atri refugee camp. The UK funding will support food assistance, medical care, and relief items for vulnerable populations in Syria and host communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. To date, the UK has committed more than $1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance to the Syria crisis.

On March 18, the Government of Norway committed an additional $18.6 million to support education and protection programming for children in Syria and vulnerable host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. To date, Norway has provided nearly $200.6 million to the humanitarian response effort in Syria since the crisis began in 2011.

Following the commencement of peaceful demonstrations against the SARG in March 2011, President Bashar alAsad pledged legislative reforms. However, reforms failed to materialize, and SARG forces loyal to President alAsad began responding to demonstrations with violence, leading armed opposition groups to retaliate.

At a November 2012 meeting in Doha, Qatar, Syrian opposition factions formed an umbrella organization—the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, also known as the Syrian Coalition (SC). The USG recognized the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people on December 11, 2012. On March 19, 2013, the SC established the Syrian Interim Government, which opposes the SARG and is based in decentralized locations throughout opposition-held areas of Syria.

The UN Security Council adopted UNSCR 2139 on February 22, 2014, pressing the SARG and other armed actors to allow unfettered humanitarian access for relief aid workers in Syria. The resolution identified priority areas for emergency relief aid, and the UN is releasing monthly reports tracking progress on implementing the resolution’s objectives and access gains, as well as persistent access impediments.

On July 14, 2014, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 2165, authorizing UN cross-border and cross-line delivery of humanitarian aid to conflict-affected populations without SARG approval. The resolution permits the UN’s use of four border crossings from Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq—in addition to other crossings already in use by UN agencies—for delivery of humanitarian assistance into Syria. The resolution also establishes a monitoring mechanism under the authority of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and with the consent of the neighboring countries to ensure that deliveries across these border points contain only humanitarian items.

UNRWA has registered approximately 560,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, with more than 80 percent living in and around Damascus. Intense fighting in and around Palestinian camps and neighborhoods has significantly affected Palestinian refugees in Syria. UNRWA estimates that over 50 percent of Palestinian refugees are displaced within Syria, with a further 12 percent displaced to neighboring countries. Syria also hosts an estimated 39,500 Iraqi refugees, primarily in the greater Damascus area.

The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations for disaster responses around the world can be found at

The USG encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, and warehouse space); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance.

Last updated: May 23, 2019

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