Syria Complex Emergency - Fact Sheet #1 (FY16)

Speeches Shim

December 11, 2015

GoRF airstrikes begin on September 30; increase in conflict displaces thousands

USG partners help Syrians prepare for the winter season

13.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance

6.3 million Syrians remain food-insecure

Numbers At A Glance

13.5 million

People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

6.5 million

IDPs in Syria

5 million

People Reached per Month by USG Assistance in Syria

4.4 million

Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

2.3 million

Syrian Refugees in Turkey

1.1 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 $866,283,413
USAID/FFP $1,550,694,720
State/PRM $2,112,085,086
TOTAL $4,529,063,219

The Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) and the Government of the Russian Federation (GoRF) began coordinating airstrikes across Syria on September 30. The UN reports that SARG and GoRF airstrikes, in addition to ground offensives, have displaced thousands of Syrians, including approximately 80,000 people in northern Syria’s Hamah and Idlib governorates in October. During an October 22 UN Security Council meeting, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Samantha Power condemned GoRF involvement, noting that GoRF actions are worsening humanitarian conditions in Syria.

Relief organizations in Syria and neighboring countries have prepared for the potential spread of cholera from Iraq, following the declaration of a confirmed outbreak in 16 of the 18 Iraqi governorates in mid-September. The Health and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) clusters—which coordinate humanitarian health and WASH activities, respectively, and comprise UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other relevant stakeholders—have procured a contingency supply of cholera treatment centers, trained health and WASH staff, and distributed chlorine tablets in preparation for a potential outbreak. Health organizations expect Syrian vulnerability to cholera to decline during the winter months.

U.S. Government (USG) partners plan to assist nearly 970,000 vulnerable people inside Syria to prepare for the winter season and mitigate cold weather-related risks during the 2015/2016 winter season. Partners are distributing winter relief items, including blankets, fuel, warm clothing, and shelter supplies to displaced populations across Syria, as well as to Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

Parties to the conflict continue to use siege as a tactic of war in Syria, where the UN estimates that approximately 393,700 people were living under siege as of late October. An estimated 200,000 people were besieged by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in areas of Dayr az Zawr Governorate, a decrease from the approximately 228,000 people reported in September, while some 12,500 people were besieged by opposition groups, including Al Nusra Front, in the towns of Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya, Idlib. Approximately 181,200 people were besieged by the SARG in various locations in Rif Damascus Governorate’s Eastern Ghouta region and the cities of Al Zabadani and Darayya in Rif Damascus— representing a nearly 10 percent increase in the population besieged by the SARG since May. Overall, the SARG is accountable for 12 of 15 UN-identified besieged towns, 10 of which are located in Eastern Ghouta.

Heightened insecurity and active fighting, including GoRF airstrikes that began on September 30, continue to displace people and kill civilians throughout Syria. The conflict displaced nearly 131,400 people from and within Aleppo, Hamah, and Idlib governorates between early October and mid-November, while thousands of others fled fighting in Al Hasakah, Damascus, Dar’a, Latakia, and Rif Damascus governorates. The UN reports that the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the estimated 13.5 million people in need remains extremely challenging due to ongoing conflict and deliberate access constraints and obstructions imposed by parties to the conflict, including onerous administrative processes.

Although many agencies are unable to serve populations located within close proximity to the fighting, humanitarian agencies, including USAID partners, have scaled up relief activities in response to the new displacement. By the end of November, relief agencies had distributed more than 9,000 tents to newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) at IDP camps in Aleppo and Idlib. Between November 6 and 19, Food Security and Livelihood Cluster members, including USAID/FFP partners, delivered approximately 18,000 food baskets and 100 metric tons of bread, reaching nearly 13,500 households in Aleppo and Idlib. In addition, health organizations are providing health care services via nine mobile clinics and emergency trauma care via 90 medical facilities in Aleppo, Hamah, and Idlib.

Increased violence impeded IDP access to services and hindered the delivery of some humanitarian assistance in areas of Al Hasakah, Ar Raqqah, Aleppo, Dar’a, Dayr az Zawr, Hamah, Homs, and Rif Damascus governorates during October, the UN reports. The UN World Food Program (WFP), for instance, was unable to deliver emergency food assistance to approximately 220,000 people in need in Aleppo, an estimated 720,000 people in need in nearly all of Ar Raqqah and Dayr az Zawr, and areas of Al Hasakah, Aleppo, Hamah, and Homs.

In October, aerial bombardment and fighting intensified in the opposition-held Eastern Ghouta region of Rif Damascus and areas surrounding the capital city of Damascus, according to the UN. In Eastern Ghouta’s town of Douma, the SARG and its allies conducted airstrikes on the town, hitting civilian infrastructure, including health care facilities and public markets, causing the deaths of at least 75 people and injuring more than 200 people, the UN reports. Additionally, airstrikes targeted the Eastern Ghouta towns of Dayr al-Assafir, Erbeen, Hamouria, Harasta, Kafr Batna, Madira, Saqba, and Zamalka, resulting in nearly 30 deaths in mid-October. Further, SARG barrel bombs struck the town of Marj and temporarily displaced an estimated 1,400 households across Eastern Ghouta and severely damaged infrastructure in the town during the same reporting period.

In late October, USAID/FFP partner WFP released the results of a food security assessment conducted inside Syria, which surveyed 19,000 households in all governorates except Ar Raqqah and Dayr az Zawr between May and June 2015. Results of the survey indicate that approximately 6.3 million people are food-insecure. The survey found a high prevalence of food insecurity in Aleppo, Al Hasakah, Al Qunaytirah, and Hamah, where more than 45 percent of the population were food-insecure. However, the severity of food insecurity varied across the surveyed governorates. While the assessment identified 164 critical sub-districts where at least 20 percent of people were experiencing food insecurity, in 20 of those sub-districts, 80 percent of the populations were food-insecure.

The assessment results also reveal that nearly 40 percent of IDPs and returnees in settlements and unfinished buildings are food-insecure, compared to an estimated 30 percent of people residing in host communities. Additionally, the WFP survey results indicate that more than 60 percent of Syrians are employing negative coping mechanisms, such as begging, child labor, and accumulating debt to meet basic food needs.

Following the declaration of a confirmed cholera outbreak in Iraq in mid-September, locally based relief agencies have prepared for the potential spread of the disease to Syria, given the geographical proximity to Iraq and the cyclical movement of people between the two countries. However, no cholera cases had been confirmed in Syria as of December 4, and health organizations expect the population’s vulnerability to cholera to decline during the winter months.

From November 19–24, a USAID/OFDA partner and other Health Cluster members conducted a training of trainers for nearly additional 70 participants in the city of Sanliurfa, Turkey; participants are now equipped to train other health care workers inside Syria on cholera preparedness and isolation and treatment procedures. Health Cluster members have also pre-positioned more than 3,300 cholera rapid diagnostics tests (RDTs) in all governorates except Rif Damascus. Further, WASH Cluster members continue assessing cholera contingency stocks—including bulk chlorine, household water purification tablets, and soap—available in Aleppo, Dayr az Zawr, and Idlib, and have distributed up to 3,000 kilograms of chlorine to treat drinking water in northern Syria.

Airstrikes on civilian infrastructure in northern Syria, including health facilities, have intensified since the commencement of GoRF aerial support to the SARG in late September. In October, alleged SARG and GoRF airstrikes accounted for attacks on USG-supported health facilities in northern and southern Syria. In addition, a recent study attributed more than 70 percent of security incidents and approximately 77 percent of civilian casualties in Syria to the SARG. The NGO Physicians for Human Rights has documented at least 90 attacks on medical facilities between January and November, marking 2015 as the year with the most recorded health facility attacks in Syria to date.

 The UN released the 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) on October 19, which identified 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria. The HNO also identified 6.5 million IDPs in Syria, 1.3 million people who are hosting IDPs, and nearly 4.5 million people living in hard-to-reach locations, including 360,000 people in besieged areas. Priority humanitarian needs for 2016 include emergency food assistance, health care, shelter, and WASH assistance. Of the 13.5 million people in need, at least 8.7 million people are unable to fully meet basic food needs and have adopted negative coping strategies, according to the HNO. Further, approximately 70 percent of people in Syria lack regular access to safe drinking water, and an estimated 5.3 million people are in need of safe shelter.

To respond to large-scale displacement since the end of September, the UN allocated $10 million to emergency response activities in Syria from the Humanitarian Pooled Fund (HPF)—a multi-donor, country-based pooled fund whose objective is to enable humanitarian assistance in Syria. The funds will address the needs of approximately 400,000 conflict-affected people in Aleppo, Hamah, and Idlib, including more than 123,800 recently displaced people, according to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster. Syrian NGOs received an estimated 80 percent of the allocation to deliver life-saving food, health, shelter, and WASH assistance. HPF funding also prioritized the provision of 6,000 tents to protect newly displaced households from harsh winter conditions; distribution of emergency food items, including ready-to-eat meals; and support to mobile health clinics and ambulances, according to the UN.

According to the HNO, 2.6 million displaced and vulnerable Syrians are in need of assistance in preparation for winter conditions. USAID/OFDA plans to provide winterization assistance to nearly 970,000 Syrians for the 2015/2016 winter season. In October, USAID/OFDA partners began distributing blankets, clothing, fuel, mattresses, plastic sheeting, and other relief items to help vulnerable communities prepare for the impending winter and mitigate cold-weather related risks. Partners are also providing shelter support, such as sealing kits and tarps, for approximately 15,300 people in northern Syria. USAID/OFDA partners operating in southern Syria are delivering winter relief items—including sleeping mats, thermal blankets, and winter clothing—to more than 274,000 people in Al Qunaytirah, As Suwayda’, Damascus, Dar’a, and Rif Damascus. Additionally, with support from State/PRM, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) aims to reach approximately 220,000 IDPs in Syria with winter assistance, including thermal blankets, plastic tarpaulin, stoves, kerosene containers, and seasonally appropriate clothing.


USG partner the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched its winterization response plan in October, which aims to distribute blankets, heaters, and winterization kits to more than 1 million Syrian children throughout Syria. UNICEF plans to introduce a voucher program in December that will enable families to access seasonally appropriate relief items through local markets in five Syrian governorates. UNICEF also continues winter preparedness efforts in neighboring countries and the region. While UNICEF’s regional winter preparedness strategy differs slightly by country, the primary focus is to provide vulnerable children and households with cash assistance, electronic vouchers, and weatherappropriate clothing kits.


With USG support, UNHCR initiated the procurement, transport, and warehouse storage of essential winter items in July and August 2015 to ensure that all relief commodities were ready for distribution to Syrian refugees residing in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) beginning in November. From November 2015 to February 2016, heating fuel will be available to vulnerable Syrian families living inside and outside of IKR refugee camps through vouchers or the direct distribution of 100 liters of kerosene per household per month. As part of UNHCR’s winter programming, vulnerable households will also receive a monthly cash supplement of $250 between November and February. UNHCR and implementing partners have identified beneficiaries based on vulnerability criteria in adherence to guidelines supported by the Cash Assistance Working Group in Iraq.


The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (GoHKJ) Ministry of Interior (MoI) is allowing refugees to use a UNHCR statement of address when applying for their MoI service card, bypassing the previous requirement that refugees needed a certified lease agreement or have their landlord present to receive the card. As of October 15, the MoI had issued approximately 222,300 Syrian MoI service cards; of this total, more than 204,000 are Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR. The verification exercise requires all Syrians, both refugees and non-refugees, residing outside of camps to register with the GoHKJ and obtain new documents that permit access to GoHKJ-provided services such as education and health care.

With financial support from the USG, the E.U., and Germany, camp managers officially opened two newly built school complexes in the Za’atri refugee camp in northern Jordan on October 27, bringing the total number of schools in Za’atri to 24. The schools will reduce overcrowding in classrooms and improve the overall quality of learning among Syrian refugee children attending formal schools. In October, approximately 143,000 Syrian students accessed formal education in camp and host community settings in Jordan.

With USG support, UNHCR is providing cash assistance to nearly 39,000 families, or approximately 150,000 refugees in Jordan to help meet critical needs during the winter season. To date in 2015, UNHCR has delivered $35.1 million to more than 27,400 refugee families living in Jordanian urban areas.


Results from the Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees (VASyR)—a collaborative assessment undertaken in May and June and released in October—UNHCR, UNICEF, and WFP confirm that the food security of refugees in Lebanon has significantly worsened since the previous assessment in 2014. Moderate food insecurity doubled, affecting one quarter of households, while the proportion of food-secure households fell from 25 percent to 11 percent. Findings from the assessment also indicate that the use of negative coping strategies has more than doubled among refugee households during the past year, increasing from 28 percent in 2014 to 61 percent in 2015. Further, an estimated 70 percent of refugee households are living below the national poverty line, compared to 50 percent in 2014, according to the survey. Recent funding from donors, however, will increase food voucher values for refugees from more than $13 to nearly $22 per person per month beginning in November and lasting through January 2016 at current funding levels.

On November 12, the Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) launched an aid campaign to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon in coordination with the Lebanese Red Cross. According to the head of the KRCS delegation to Lebanon, KRCS has distributed emergency food assistance and hygiene kits to nearly 350 Syrian refugee households in in Akkar District in northern Lebanon. The campaign will cover the needs of more than 7,000 Syrian refugee households for one month and will provide additional aid for refugees this winter.

With USG support, UNICEF has helped establish a new water distribution network in Majdel Anjar village in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, where more than 17,000 Syrian refugees and 15,000 Lebanese people reside. Additionally, by installing a new 7,200-feet water-supply line in the town of Jeb Janine, Bekaa Valley, UNICEF is ensuring the transmission of approximately 3 million liters of water per day and improving access to safe drinking water for local populations, including more than 8,000 Syrian refugees and 5,600 Lebanese people.


On November 16, the UK announced that it plans to contribute up to $419 million in bilateral assistance to Turkey during the next two years to assist with the Syrian conflict and resultant refugee crisis. The new funding will likely target humanitarian projects; support schools, hospitals, and housing for Syrian refugees; and assist communities hosting refugees. The new UK announcement builds upon existing funding through the UK Department for International Development (DFID), which has provided approximately $52 million for humanitarian projects in Turkey since the beginning of the Syrian complex emergency.

In collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent Society (TRCS), WFP continues to assess the vulnerability of the refugee population residing outside of camps in Turkey in an effort to channel assistance to those most in need. WFP plans to maintain its off-camp program, which has supported more than 25,000 Syrians to date in 2015, through the end of the year. The program aims to reach up to 45,000 Syrian households in total by the end of 2015.

According to WFP, in refugee camp settings, TRCS, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), and WFP have worked together to provide Syrian refugees with sufficient food assistance to enable the refugees to cover their food requirements. The number of refugees in camps assisted by voucher support from WFP and AFAD is limited to approximately 150,000 individuals in 11 camps. AFAD covers the entirety of the voucher amount to the population of the remaining 14 camps.

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 (UNSC) adopted UNSC Resolution (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 UNSC 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. In December 2014, the UNSC unanimously adopted UNSCR 2191, which renewed the mandate of UNSCR 2165 and will remain active until January 10, 2016.

UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (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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