Syria Complex Emergency - Fact Sheet #3 FY18

Speeches Shim

January 12, 2018

UN delivers assistance to 50,000 IDPs at the Syria–Jordan border berm for the first time in six months

UNSC reauthorizes cross-border humanitarian access to Syria through January 2019

Relief agencies evacuate 29 critically ill patients from Eastern Ghouta

Relief agencies reach 810,000 people in HTR and besieged areas with assistance

On January 8, the UN commenced an operation to deliver a one-month supply of humanitarian assistance, via crane, for approximately 50,000 people at the informal Rukban settlement, located along the Syria–Jordan border berm. During the one-week operation, the UN plans to provide food and emergency relief commodities, including winter-specific items, for onward distribution by local leaders at the settlement.

In early December, Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) and Government of the Russian Federation (GoRF) forces escalated attacks on northwestern Syria’s Hamah and Idlib governorates, prompting more than 71,500 people to flee the governorates in December and January, 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. Relief agencies are addressing the priority needs of affected populations, including food, health care, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) support, the UN reports.

In late December, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) evacuated 29 critically ill patients from Rif Damascus Governorate’s SARG-besieged Eastern Ghouta region to Syria’s capital city of Damascus, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reports.

As of December 19, an estimated 2.9 million people were residing in UN-identified hard-to-reach (HTR) areas of Syria, including nearly 417,600 people living in besieged locations. The figure represents a decrease of approximately 77,600 people since late September.

Numbers At A Glance

13.1 million

People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

6.1 million

IDPs in Syria

4 million

People Reached per Month by USG Assistance in Syria

5.5 million

Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

3.4 million

Syrian Refugees in Turkey


Syrian Refugees in Lebanon


Syrian Refugees in Jordan


Syrian Refugees in Iraq


Palestinian Refugees in Syria

Humanitarian Funding

To Syria Humanitarian Response
FY 2012 - FY 2018

USAID/OFDA $1,448,918,764
USAID/FFP $2,297,390,024
State/PRM $3,736,575,196
TOTAL $7,482,883,984


An estimated 2.9 million people were residing in HTR areas of Syria, including nearly 417,600 people living in besieged locations, as of December 19—a decrease of approximately 77,600 people since September 27, when the UN estimated that nearly 3 million people resided in HTR areas, including more than 419,900 people in besieged locations. The UN removed 50 locations in Ar Raqqah Governorate—including Al Thawrah and Mansura towns, where an estimated 72,000 people reside—from the list of HTR locations in December, reducing the HTR population of the governorate by 40 percent, or 104,700 people. The UN also removed three locations in Quneitra Governorate and recognized 128 new locations in Aleppo Governorate; further, the UN removed Damascus’ neighborhood of Qaboun from its list of besieged areas, reducing Syria’s overall besieged population by approximately 2,400 people. As of December, the UN classified 30 locations in Syria as besieged, 28 of which are besieged by the SARG.

Central and Southern Syria

Despite the inclusion of Eastern Ghouta as one of the four de-escalation zones established by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Government of Turkey, and GoRF in August, SARG aerial and artillery attacks have intensified significantly in recent weeks, with the UN reporting at least 85 civilian deaths and 183 injuries in the region since December 29. Additionally, airstrikes damaged at least two medical facilities in Eastern Ghouta, killing at least one medical staff member and rendering a facility inoperable.

State/PRM partner the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and iMMAP’s Population Monitoring Initiative recorded nearly 4,700 returns to villages in Dar’a and Quneitra governorates in November, representing a decrease of approximately 22 percent compared to the nearly 6,000 returnees recorded during October. Relief agencies report that the onset of winter and intermittent conflict between the SARG and local armed groups have likely contributed to the slowed returns.

In late December, armed opposition groups in Rif Damascus’ SARG-besieged villages of Bait Jan and Mazraet Bait Jan agreed to cede control of the villages to the SARG, local media report. According to local media, the agreement stipulates the evacuation of fighters and family members from the villages, located approximately 25 miles from Damascus, to locations in Dar’a and Idlib.

Northern Syria

Persistent armed conflict in northern Hamah and southern Idlib, compounded by SARG and GoRF aerial attacks, continues to displace populations to areas of Aleppo, Hamah, and Idlib and increase humanitarian needs across northwestern Syria. Deteriorating security conditions in northern Hamah’s As-Saan, Hamra, and Oqeirbat sub-districts and southern Idlib’s Sanjar and Tamanaah sub-districts displaced more than 99,500 people in December and early January, including more than 20,000 people from southern Idlib in recent weeks. More than 1.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), including nearly 273,400 IDPs in displacement sites, were residing in western Aleppo, northern Hamah, and Idlib as of January 9, the CCCM Cluster reports.

Displacement has also increased in Ar Raqqah, with the CCCM Cluster registering approximately 330,900 primary and secondary displacements from or within the governorate since November 1, 2016. An estimated 48,000 people had returned to the city of Ar Raqqah as of early January, according to the UN. However, the UN reports that access to clean water and electricity is severely limited throughout Ar Raqqah Governorate; as of mid-December, one of 77 health facilities was fully functional in the governorate, according to the UN.

The presence of explosive hazards continues to pose a risk to returning populations in northeastern Syria, notably in the city of Ar Raqqah. Despite messaging by humanitarian organizations and local authorities regarding the risk of explosive hazard contamination, displaced populations continue to return to the city. Between October and December, more than 200 people were reportedly killed and hundreds of people were injured due to explosive hazards in the city, according to the UN.

On December 19, the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 2393, re-authorizing UN cross-border humanitarian access to Syria through January 10, 2019. UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2165, adopted in 2014, provided the original mandate for UN agencies to access Syria through four approved border crossings with Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey; the UN Security Council has subsequently extended the resolution’s mandate on an annual basis. Humanitarian agencies assist an estimated 2.8 million people per month in Syria through cross-border operations, the UN reports.

On January 8, the UN commenced an operation to deliver assistance to the informal Rukban settlement using cranes based on the Jordan border. The operation, estimated to last approximately one week, will provide food and emergency relief commodities, including winter-specific items, to approximately 10,000 households, or 50,000 people, at the site. As of January 10, the UN had delivered assistance sufficient for more than 5,700 households at the settlement. The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan had suspended regular access to the settlement after a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated at a Jordanian military outpost near the settlement in June 2016.

On December 6, a 36-truck SARC convoy accessed the HTR towns of Talbiseh in Homs Governorate and Tlul Elhomor in Hamah, according to relief organizations. The convoy delivered nearly 18,600 food baskets, as well as medical supplies and winter-specific relief items—including plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, and winter clothing kits.

On December 12, the SARC accessed Dayr az Zawr Governorate’s HTR city of Abu Kamal with emergency assistance for the second time since mid-2014; the first interagency convoy to Abu Kamal arrived to the city on November 22. The 15-truck convoy included 6,000 food parcels, 3,000 bags of flour, 4,500 bags of diapers, 3,000 hygiene kits, and 2,500 solar lamps provided by ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the UN.

Despite strict access challenges, USG partner the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provided emergency assistance to more than 340,000 people in HTR locations in Syria in November. UNICEF provided medical supplies for 237,000 people and reached 3,500 vulnerable youth with life skills classes and psychosocial support services in HTR areas countrywide during the month. The UN agency also distributed nutrition supplies for 24,000 children and 6,000 pregnant or lactating women in HTR areas of Hamah, Homs, and Rif Damascus. As of mid-December, the UN and humanitarian organizations had reached more than 810,000 people in HTR areas with multi-sector assistance in 2017.

In December, the Logistics Cluster, with support from USAID and in coordination with the SARC and UN agencies, facilitated two interagency humanitarian convoys to HTR locations in Homs. Convoys transported life-saving food, nutrition, health, protection, and WASH assistance, as well as education supplies, on behalf of five humanitarian organizations. The Logistics Cluster also continued to coordinate the cross-border operations of five UN agencies and USG partner the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in December, facilitating the crossing of more than 200 trucks from Jordan and more than 450 trucks from Turkey into Syria.

From December 26–28, the SARC evacuated 29 critically ill patients from Eastern Ghouta, ICRC reports. More than 600 additional patients remained in need of urgent medical evacuation from Eastern Ghouta as of late December, according to the Syrian American Medical Society. Years of aerial bombardments and SARG-imposed access restrictions have damaged health infrastructure and depleted medical supplies, exacerbating the spread of preventable diseases and limiting the care that region’s few health care workers can provide. According to the UN, more than one-third of Eastern Ghouta’s health facilities are no longer functioning, with remaining facilities experiencing severe resource shortages.

SARG and GoRF airstrikes damaged at least 10 health facilities in Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks, international media report. According to the UN and the Health Cluster, aerial attacks in late December damaged a local hospital and medical warehouse in northwestern Syria belonging to an international NGO, damaging medical and nutrition supplies. In November, the Health Cluster recorded 19 attacks against health care facilities in Syria, including seven incidents in Rif Damascus, five incidents in Idlib, three incidents each in Aleppo and Hamah, and one incident in Damascus.

As of January 9, USG partner the UN World Health Organization (WHO) had reported 74 laboratory-confirmed cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus in Syria, including four cases confirmed between November 21 and December 12 that originated from Dayr az Zawr’s Abu Kamal and Al Mayadin districts. Health agencies continue to support outbreak response activities, including planning upcoming vaccination campaigns in Al Hasakah, Ar Raqqah, and Dayr az Zawr governorates and establishing a new environmental surveillance laboratory in Damascus.

Early marriage—a practice often exacerbated by unsafe living and shelter conditions and economic vulnerability—is a protection risk for Syrian refugee girls living in Lebanon, UNICEF reports. From January to October, UNICEF provided approximately 104,000 youth and 100,000 adults with messaging regarding the negative effects of early marriage on girls’ education, health, and psychosocial well-being. Additionally, the UN agency provided more than 72,000 women and girls access to safe spaces that offered psychosocial services—through life skills, literacy, numeracy, and parenting classes; socio-economic empowerment opportunities; and emotional support groups—to enable adolescent girls to develop positive coping mechanisms and social networks.

The SARG siege on Eastern Ghouta continues to deteriorate nutrition conditions in the region, according to the UN. Results from a November UNICEF survey indicated that the proportion of children younger than five years of age facing acute malnutrition had risen to nearly 12 percent in November, compared to approximately 2 percent in January 2017, representing the highest levels of acute malnutrition recorded in Syria since the beginning of the conflict.

In response to dire nutrition conditions in Eastern Ghouta, USAID/OFDA is supporting life-saving health and nutrition interventions, including malnutrition prevention and treatment services and infant and young child feeding activities, in the region. USAID/OFDA partners are also providing critical food security and livelihoods support to vulnerable Eastern Ghouta households. In November, a USAID/OFDA partner distributed fodder vouchers, coordinated a chicken breeding program, supported veterinary care visits, and led trainings on livestock breeding and care in northern rural Homs. The partner organization also distributed more than 13,000 pounds of fodder, as well as chickens and coops, to households in Eastern Ghouta during the month.

Humanitarian organizations, including USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP), are responding to the urgent food security needs of displaced individuals across Syria, as security conditions allow. In early January, WFP delivered food rations to support 5,000 people in northern Idlib and provided food assistance to an additional 4,000 recently arrived IDPs in eastern Idlib.

With the onset of winter, the UN remains concerned regarding the winterization needs of up to 13 million vulnerable Syrians, including recently displaced populations in northern Syria. Between September 1 and December 12, UNHCR distributed more than 837,000 winter-specific relief commodities—including plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, and winter clothing kits—to approximately 513,000 people in Damascus and As Suwayda’, Aleppo, Dar’a, Dayr az Zawr, Hamah, Homs, Latakia, Rif Damascus, Tartus, and Quneitra governorates.

Following the commencement of peaceful demonstrations against the SARG in March 2011, President Bashar al-Asad pledged legislative reforms. However, reforms failed to materialize, and SARG forces loyal to President al-Asad began responding to demonstrations with violence, leading armed oppositions 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. The USG recognized the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people on December 11, 2012. On March 19, 2013, the Syrian Coalition established the Syrian Interim Government, which opposes the SARG and is based in decentralized locations throughout opposition-held areas of Syria.

On July 14, 2014, the UNSC 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 the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Syria. The resolution also establishes a monitoring mechanism under the authority of the UN Secretary-General and with the consent of neighboring countries to ensure that deliveries across these border points contain only humanitarian items. The UNSC has subsequently adopted several resolutions renewing the mandate of UNSCR 2165, most recently in December 2017 with the adoption of UNSCR 2393, extending the authorities granted until January 2019.

Prior to the start of the conflict, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had registered approximately 560,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, with more than 80 percent living in and around the city of Damascus. Intense fighting in and around some Palestinian camps and neighborhoods has significantly affected Palestinian refugees in Syria. UNRWA estimates that approximately 60 percent of Palestinian refugees are displaced within Syria, with a further 110,000 Palestinian refugees displaced in neighboring countries. Syria also hosts an estimated 24,000 Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers, primarily in the greater Damascus area, as well as more than 3,200 refugee persons of concern from other countries.

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: March 08, 2018

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