Syria Complex Emergency - Fact Sheet #2

Speeches Shim

February 4, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces nearly $601 million in new humanitarian funding for Syria and neighboring countries

Relief agencies reach four besieged areas with emergency food and other humanitarian assistance since January

Ground conflict and aerial bombardment displace nearly 472,000 people between April and December 2015

Health teams vaccinate 3 million children across Syria against polio in 2015

Numbers At A Glance

13.5 million

People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

6.5 million

IDPs in Syria

4 million

People Reached per Month by USG Assistance in Syria

4.6 million

Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

2.5 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 $871,555,850
USAID/FFP $1,782,602,164
State/PRM $2,475,866,537
TOTAL $5,130,024,551

On February 4, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced nearly $601 million in new humanitarian funding for Syria and neighboring countries, bringing total USG humanitarian assistance to date to more than $5.1 billion. Secretary Kerry announced the funding at the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference in London, where USAID Bureau for the Middle East Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander and USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/DCHA) Assistant Administrator Thomas Staal attended on behalf of USAID. The announcement includes nearly $364 million from State/PRM and $232 million from USAID/FFP to support humanitarian efforts in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, and nearly $5.3 million from USAID/OFDA for humanitarian assistance inside Syria.

In response to locally negotiated ceasefire agreements, three joint humanitarian convoys accessed Idlib Governorate’s besieged towns of Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya and Rif Damascus Governorate’s besieged towns of Al Zabadani and Madaya in January. The convoys delivered food and relief supplies to meet the basic needs of 40,000 people in Madaya and 20,000 people in Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya for approximately one month.

In late January, the UN revised its list of besieged locations in Syria. Notably, the UN added Rif Damascus’ towns of Madaya and Moadamiyya and Damascus’ Yarmouk neighborhood to the list, increasing the total number of besieged locations to 19.

During the final quarter of 2015, Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) and Government of the Russian Federation (GoRF) aerial attacks on civilian infrastructure further escalated, constraining already limited safe areas for conflict-affected civilians and threatening humanitarian access.

Persistent armed conflict compounded by SARG and GoRF aerial attacks internally displaced nearly 471,600 people between April and December 2015. The majority of Syria’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently reside in Aleppo and Rif Damascus governorates, with each hosting nearly 1.3 million IDPs as of mid-January, according to a USAID/OFDA partner. In the final quarter of 2015, 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—reported that insecurity prompted the displacement of 71,300 people from Aleppo; 81,780 people from Hamah Governorate; 9,400 people from Homs Governorate; 14,000 people from Idlib Governorate; and 12,700 people from Latakia Governorate, to IDP camps and collective centers. In northern Syria, areas of southwest Aleppo and northern Idlib experienced the greatest amount of population movement during this period.

SARG forces recaptured Sheikh Miskine town in Dar’a Governorate from armed opposition groups on January 25, after three months of active fighting, according to the UN. Since November, all civilians from Sheikh Miskine—an estimated 30,000 people—have fled to neighboring towns in Dar’a. The UN anticipates that SARG advances on nearby Dar’a towns of Abtaa and Nawa, which host a large number of IDPs from Sheikh Miskine, will prompt additional population displacement. UN and USAID partners are assessing contingency stock levels of relief supplies in western Dar’a in anticipation of increased needs and conflict-related access restrictions.

On December 22, 2015, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed resolution 2258, urging all parties to the conflict in Syria, particularly SARG authorities, to immediately open routes across borders and internal lines of control to permit humanitarian assistance to reach Syria’s 13.5 million people in need. The resolution renewed the authorities granted under UNSC Resolution (UNSCR) 2191 until January 10, 2017, but cited a significant decline in SARG-approved deliveries since October 31, 2015. UNSCR 2258 specifically called for the SARG’s expeditious cooperation with the UN on future cross-line delivery requests.

The UN initiated a review of official besieged and hard-to-reach locations in Syria on January 21. The UN estimates that 4.6 million people were living in official hard-to-reach areas as of January 28, locations which are subject to various restrictions on the movement of people and goods that severely limit access to basic services and humanitarian assistance. Of this population, an estimated 486,700 people are living in areas besieged by the SARG, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and armed opposition groups, in order of magnitude. The number of people living under siege as of January 28 represents a nearly 24 percent increase from the 393,700 people living under siege in October 2015. Approximately 56 percent the population is besieged by the SARG, and 10 of the 19 besieged locations in Syria are in Rif Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta region. Only three locations—Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya towns and the western part of Dayr az Zawr Governorate’s Dayr az Zawr city—are besieged by opposition or ISIL forces. During its recent review, the UN added Madaya, Moadamiyya, and Yarmouk to the list of official besieged locations. In Moadamiyya, a blockade of humanitarian and commercial goods since late December has significantly decreased the availability of food and medicine. The UN defines a besieged location as an area surrounded by armed groups, with the sustained effect that humanitarian assistance cannot regularly enter, and civilians—including people with severe injuries and medical conditions—cannot regularly exit the area.

On December 2, opposition forces and the SARG reached a locally negotiated ceasefire agreement in the opposition controlled Al Wa’er suburb of the city of Homs, Homs Governorate, according to the UN. The agreement, which returns control of Al Wa’er to the SARG, stipulated that the SARG release an unknown number of prisoners and allow humanitarian assistance to enter the area, while requiring opposition fighters who refused to disarm to relocate to opposition-held areas of Hamah or Idlib. International media reports indicated that approximately 300 opposition fighters and 400 family members departed Al Wa’er and arrived in Idlib on December 10. Three joint humanitarian convoys—composed of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), and UN teams—accessed Al Wa’er between December 5 and January 11. In total, the three convoys have reached 90,000 individuals, including 75,000 people in Al Wa’er and 15,000 people in surrounding areas, with emergency food assistance and relief supplies, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Humanitarian teams also distributed materials to better insulate shelters against harsh winter conditions and to improve water and sanitation facilities at 13 sites hosting IDPs.

On December 28, a joint ICRC-SARC-UN team evacuated more than 120 opposition fighters and their families from the SARG-besieged town of Al Zabadani, Rif Damascus, and more than 330 civilians from the opposition-besieged towns of Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya, Idlib, in accordance with locally negotiated ceasefires. Under the supervision of ICRC, SARC, and the UN, the evacuees from Al Zabadani travelled via Lebanon and Turkey to opposition-controlled areas of Idlib, and evacuees from Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya travelled via Turkey and then Lebanon to reach SARG-controlled areas of Syria, the UN World Food Program (WFP) reports. The joint humanitarian team provided medical assistance to the wounded evacuees, with some of the most seriously injured remaining in Lebanon for additional medical services.

In addition to significant amounts of emergency food assistance, three joint humanitarian convoys delivered health, nutritional, and other critical relief supplies to Al Fu’ah, Kafrayya, Al Zabadani, and Madaya. The deliveries included a three-month supply of medicine and surgical supplies for 200 people in Madaya from ICRC and the UN World Health Organization (WHO). UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) deployed a nutrition expert with one convoy to assess nutritional needs in Madaya and provided specialized nutrition products, including the nutritional supplements Plumpy’Nut and Plumpy’Sup, as well as high-energy biscuits, medicines, micronutrients, and therapeutic foods for the treatment of acute malnutrition. UNICEF also delivered a similar range of nutrition supplies to Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya to meet the health and nutrition needs of nearly 6,000 children, according to the UN. In addition, UNHCR delivered winter kits, composed of plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, water cans, and winter clothing, for 8,000 families in Madaya and 4,000 families in Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya. WFP also distributed 20,000 liters of fuel in total to Al Fu’ah, Kafrayya, and Madaya to operate water pumping stations and for household cooking and heating.

On January 11 and 14, humanitarian convoys accessed the besieged towns of Al Fu’ah, Kafrayya, and Madaya, where increasing reports of acute malnutrition and malnutrition-related deaths have emerged. Fifty trucks transported approximately 355 metric tons (MT) of humanitarian assistance to Madaya, including 250 MT of emergency food assistance provided by USAID/FFP partner WFP. The additional 21 trucks carried emergency relief items, including 4,000 WFP food parcels, to Al Fu’ah and Kafrayya, according to WFP. The food assistance delivered to Madaya and the besieged Idlib towns was sufficient to meet the food needs of approximately 40,000 people and 20,000 people, respectively, for up to one month. As part of a January 18 convoy, WFP delivered 200 household food parcels and 200 bags of wheat flour—weighing an estimated 20 MT—to the besieged town of Al Zabadani. The assistance was sufficient to meet the food needs of the estimated 1,000 civilians remaining in the town for one month.

WFP reached an average of 3.7 million people in Syria per month with emergency food assistance from October–December 2015; an estimated 25 percent of this population resides in UN-identified hard-to-reach areas. Cross-border deliveries from Jordan and Turkey accounted for approximately 20 percent of the UN agency’s assistance during the same period, representing a six-fold increase in WFP cross-border deliveries since the beginning of 2015. In areas affected by bread shortages, WFP assistance included wheat flour to households in rural areas and bakeries in urban areas, where households are less likely to have access to baking facilities. Additionally, WFP reached 188,000 children younger than five years of age with supplementary feeding products to prevent malnutrition in eight governorates between October and December, including 101,000 children in high-conflict areas of Aleppo, Hamah, and Idlib governorates.

USAID/FFP has provided more than $135 million in FY 2016 funding to support NGOs’ continued provision of emergency food assistance to millions of conflict-affected people throughout Syria.

Information on the nutrition situation in hard-to-reach and besieged areas remains limited due to access challenges, according to UNICEF. Recent reports of acute malnutrition from the city of Dayr az Zawr, Madaya, and Moadamiyya highlight an urgent need for comprehensive nutrition assessments in hard-to-reach and besieged areas. UNICEF has requested that all parties to the conflict immediately grant sustained and unconditional access to hard-to-reach and besieged areas for independent nutrition assessments and establishment of capacity to trace and treat malnutrition cases upon identification, and where necessary, to evacuate the most critical cases for treatment and avert further deterioration and risk of malnutrition-related deaths. Out of a reported 400 cases of acute malnutrition in Madaya, the SARG has approved medical evacuation for only seven people. A local NGO reports that one of the seven evacuees died in a Damascus health facility on January 31.

Rif Damascus’ SARG-besieged Darayya and Moadamiyya towns host an estimated 50,000 people in urgent need of food assistance, nutritional supplies, and health care services, according to international media. Relief agencies and commercial suppliers have been unable to access Moadamiyya since December 2015, and Darayya since 2012. International media reports that seven people in Moadamiyya have died from malnutrition since December, including five children. As of January 26, the SARG had approved a request to access Moadamiyya, and UNICEF planned to provide malnutrition screening supplies—including mid-upper arm circumference measuring tapes—to a USAID/OFDA-supported health facility in the town. An estimated 480,000 people in Rif Damascus are in urgent need of nutritional assistance, according to the UN.

The UN reports deteriorated humanitarian conditions in the city of Dayr az Zawr, particularly in the western SARG-controlled areas, where approximately 200,000 people, including an estimated 150,000 IDPs, reside. Since ISIL began its siege on the western areas of the city in early 2015, access to information about humanitarian conditions in Dayr az Zawr has been extremely limited. Among other constraints, the siege has resulted in shortages of medical supplies, restricted access to safe drinking water and other basic services, and limited civilian movement. The primary hospital in the area lacks medicine, personnel, and supplies, and is located outside the city, making it difficult and expensive for residents to access. In addition, poor water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions and a lack of medical capacity have led to an increase in leishmaniasis cases and waterborne disease incidence, including typhoid.

Throughout 2015, the SARC and ICRC provided multiple limited shipments of humanitarian assistance through airlifts to Dayr az Zawr but halted the deliveries due to insecurity; the last delivery occurred in August and included 2 MT of food. Following a mid-January ISIL offensive on the city of Dayr az Zawr, the UN estimates that already limited food and basic supplies will diminish further due to the offensive, increasing the risk of food insecurity for the 200,000 people remaining in western areas of the city. Ongoing armed conflict has newly displaced approximately 3,200 households, and the UN has received reports of hundreds of civilian deaths and abductions by ISIL fighters. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) began trucking safe drinking water to besieged groups in western Dayr az Zawr on January 20.

In December 2015, health agencies, including USAID/OFDA partners UNICEF and WHO, reached more than 860,000 children with polio vaccines across Syria, including eastern areas of Al Hasakah, Aleppo, Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Hamah, and Homs governorates. Vaccination teams reached Aleppo’s city of Kobane for the first time since ISIL initially seized control of the area in 2014 and provided immunizations to an estimated 17,800 children, the UN reports. Of the more than 860,000 children reached in December, health teams vaccinated more than 208,300 children living in hard-to-reach areas. Overall in 2015, health agencies vaccinated nearly 3 million children younger than five years of age against polio through five national campaigns, UNICEF reports.

During November 2015, members of the Turkey-based Shelter/Non-Food Item (NFI) Cluster—including USAID/OFDA partners—provided seasonally appropriate relief commodities to more than 275,700 conflict-affected individuals. Cluster members also provided shelter support to more than 40,300 people across 31 sub-districts of northern Syria. The cluster plans to reach 1.8 million people in northern Syria with critical relief items, including charcoal, fuel, household heaters, tents, thermal blankets, and winter clothing, during the 2015/2016 winter season; an estimated 2.6 million displaced and vulnerable people across Syria are in need of assistance amid harsh weather conditions, according to the 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Of the cluster’s 1.8 million intended beneficiaries, USAID/OFDA partners plan to provide winterization assistance to nearly more than 686,000 people in northern Syria by the end of the 2015/2016 winter season. The majority of the beneficiaries reached by cluster members in November reside in Aleppo and Idlib governorates, where the greatest number of new IDPs—more than 111,400 people and 165,800 people, respectively—arrived in November, according to the UN and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

From its cross-border hub in Amman, Jordan, USAID/OFDA partner IOM procured and delivered 1,000 shelter-sealing kits and 1,000 olive pit bricks for heating purposes to southern Syria in December 2015. From its cross-border hub in Gaziantep, Turkey, IOM distributed 2,050 tents, 350 shelter-sealing kits and other winter relief supplies, and 7,000 jackets and pairs of boots for children in northern Syria. IOM also reached 17,640 individuals in hard-to-reach areas of Aleppo and Homs governorates with 8,500 blankets, mattresses, rechargeable lights, and winterization kits from Damascus.

As of December 2015, State/PRM partner UNHCR had distributed seasonally appropriate relief items, including high-thermal blankets, plastic tarpaulins, stoves, and winter clothing, to more than 463,000 internally displaced Syrians in nine governorates in northern and southern Syria. UNHCR also provided seasonal relief items to nearly 598,000 Syrian refugees and cash assistance to another 875,000 Syrian refugees. Through its regional winter assistance plan, UNHCR plans to address the seasonal needs of 1 million IDPs and 1.6 million refugees.


USAID/FFP has provided $26 million for WFP’s regional emergency operation (EMOP) in FY 2016, which supports the continued provision of food vouchers to Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.


Amid significant outflows of Syrian refugees leaving Egypt, UNHCR continued to provide cash assistance to an estimated 35,000 Syrians in Egypt to help refugee households meet basic needs. The number of Syrian refugees registered in Egypt declined from nearly 140,000 at the start of 2015 to 117,658 refugees as of December 31, 2015. The majority of Syrian refugees in 2015 departed for Turkey, and more than 180 Syrian refugees voluntarily returned to Syria, with the majority of refugees departing Egypt citing livelihood and education concerns as their primary reasons for leaving.


Syrian refugees continue to enter the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) through the Fish Khabur border crossing, with nearly 5,000 new Syrians arriving in November. Due to changes in Kurdistan Regional Government admission procedures, the proportion of Syrians admitted as asylum seekers upon arrival has sharply decreased this year from 50 percent admitted in January 2015 to 3 percent admitted in November 2015. While 97 percent of the refugees entered as visitors or for medical reasons, many visitors later approached UNHCR to change their status to asylum seekers, according to the UN. With temperatures dropping near the freezing point in mountainous areas of IKR, State/PRM partner UNHCR began distributing winter relief items, including blankets, heating devices, and kerosene to Syrian refugee households across the IKR in November.


The number of Syrian refugees stranded on the Jordanian side of the Syria–Jordan border, in an area known as the berm, had risen to 20,000 people as of February 2, according to UNHCR. An estimated 4,000–5,000 refugees arrive at the berm each month and await permission to enter Jordan. In recent months, Jordanian authorities have permitted entry to a limited number of refugees, leaving a growing number of Syrians stranded at the Rukban and Hadalat areas of the border, which are more than 90 miles from the nearest town. Jordanian authorities attribute slow admissions to security concerns, claiming that many refugees have arrived from ISIL-held territory. UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have urged the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to expedite security screening so that vetted refugees can seek shelter in at Azraq refugee camp, which has the capacity to immediately accept 20,000 new arrivals. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are providing basic assistance to refugees stranded at the berm.


In 2015, State/PRM partner UNICEF improved access to health facilities for refugees and host communities in Lebanon with USG support, conducting nearly 1.6 million health consultations. UNICEF also provided essential health supplies for up to 50,000 people, ensured the safe delivery of 3,000 babies, and immunized nearly 240,300 children younger than five years of age. In addition, more than 1.6 million people received access to safe drinking water through 60 UNICEF water projects. UNICEF improved wastewater management for an estimated 450,000 people and constructed 4,200 emergency latrines in informal refugee settlements in Lebanon. More than 600,000 refugees and host community members received community-based child protection and gender-based violence services.

During the 2015/2016 winter season, State/PRM partner UNHCR is providing seasonally appropriate humanitarian assistance to more than 900,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. On November 30 and December 4, UNHCR uploaded the first installments of monthly cash assistance to automated teller machine cards that will benefit more than 500,000 refugees during the winter. In addition, UNHCR signed an agreement with WFP to support 5,000 vulnerable Lebanese families through the National Poverty Targeting Program; each family will receive $30 per person for four months through WFP electronic vouchers. UNHCR has also worked with the program to identify 53,000 Lebanese families to receive thermal blankets. The distribution of shelter weatherproofing kits is ongoing, with more than 16,000 households having received shelter kits to date.


On January 29, the Government of Turkey (GoT) began providing asylum to refugees on the southern border of Turkey’s Hatay Province, as SARG forces launched indirect attacks on towns and IDP camps along the Syria–Turkey border. By the evening of January 31, the GoT informed UNHCR that nearly 2,100 Syrian refugees had been admitted and registered in Turkey. New arrivals are primarily staying with host families in local villages.

On January 15, the GoT published regulations legalizing work permits for Syrians. According to Turkish media, up to 400,000 Syrian refugees would become eligible for temporary identification cards and work permits under the new regulations.

The GoT announced on December 30, 2015, that Syrians entering Turkey by air or sea would need to obtain a visa prior to arrival at a Turkish port of entry beginning on January 8, 2016. The new visa requirement is in response to a reported influx in the number of Syrians traveling to Turkey from third countries with fake documents, according to the GoT. The GoT clarified that Syrians seeking entry to Turkey via land crossing are not subject to the new regulations.

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 10, 2016

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