Syria Complex Emergency - Fact Sheet #4 FY18

Speeches Shim

February 12, 2018

GoT launches Operation Olive Branch on January 20, resulting in at least 67 civilian deaths

Intensified military operations in Eastern Ghouta result in at more than 200 civilian deaths since February 5

State/PRM partners reach 950,000 people with critical winterization assistance

USAID Administrator Mark Green travels to Ar Raqqah to observe humanitarian conditions and meet with USAID

On January 20, the Government of Turkey (GoT) officially launched Operation Olive Branch, a GoT military offensive against Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Aleppo Governorate’s Kurdish-controlled Afrin District. As of February 8, the offensive had killed at least 130 civilians and displaced more than 16,000 people, international media and the UN report. In response, humanitarian agencies are delivering emergency assistance, including relief commodities and shelter supplies, to affected populations.

Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) military operations in northern Hamah and southern Idlib governorates continue to intensify. Since December, conflict has killed at least 220 people and resulted in an estimated 304,200 displacements in the region, international media and the UN report.

On February 4, international media reported a suspected SARG-led chemical attack on Idlib’s town of Saraqib, representing the sixth potential chemical attack in the past 30 days in Syria. The incident followed a suspected chemical attack by the SARG on February 1 in Rif Damascus Governorate’s SARG-besieged Eastern Ghouta region—the third suspected chemical attack in the region in 2018.

On January 22, USAID Administrator Mark Green visited Ar Raqqah Governorate’s Ein Issa internally displaced person (IDP) site—where nearly 18,000 IDPs are sheltering—and Ar Raqqah city to observe humanitarian conditions and meet with beneficiaries of USAID-funded assistance. During the visit, the Administrator expressed the USG’s continued commitment to conducting life-saving interventions for conflict-affected populations in Syria. Since March 2011, the USG has provided nearly $7.7 billion in support of the Syrian humanitarian response.

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

3.5 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 $1,467,232,578
USAID/FFP $2,495,220,280
State/PRM $3,736,575,196
TOTAL $7,699,028,054


Central and Southern Syria

Intensified military operations targeting Eastern Ghouta continue to cause civilian casualties, displace populations, and compromise relief operations. On February 1, international media reported a possible chemical attack by the SARG in Eastern Ghouta’s city of Douma, representing the third suspected chlorine gas attack in the region in 2018. Health facilities treated at least five people, including a local relief organization staff member for symptoms consistent with chlorine gas exposure, including respiratory distress, according to international media. Meanwhile, airstrikes have killed more than 200 people in Eastern Ghouta since February 5. Additionally, at least 24 civilians died in January while awaiting medical evacuation from Eastern Ghouta, the UN reports; as of January, more than 750 patients required medical evacuation from the besieged region.

On January 12, the UN completed a five-day emergency operation to deliver aid to the informal Rukban settlement, located along the Syria–Jordan border berm. In coordination with local leaders at the settlement, the UN used cranes and trucks to distribute a one month supply of emergency food, hygiene kits, and winter-specific assistance for approximately 50,000 people.

Northern Syria

Since the commencement of Operation Olive Branch on January 20, an estimated 16,000 IDPs have arrived in Aleppo’s Afrin town and surrounding areas, the UN reports. While the UN had identified approximately 1,900 IDPs from Afrin District in Aleppo’s nearby towns of Nabul, Tal Jibeen, and Zahraa and in the city of Aleppo, local authorities in Afrin and SARG forces are preventing many newly displaced persons from fleeing beyond Afrin District, according to the UN. As a result, the UN reports increasingly congested conditions in central Afrin District, where many IDPs are residing with relatives or in unfinished buildings.

Humanitarian agencies report that authorities in Afrin District closed entry and exit points between conflict-affected areas and neighboring districts in late January, restricting civilian movement, disrupting transportation along commercial trade routes, and resulting in increased fuel prices in Afrin District and neighboring areas. Due to the high cost of fuel, the price of water in Afrin District has more than doubled, from 1,200 Syrian pounds (SYP) to 2,500 SYP per 1,000 liters, according to the UN. As of January 27, residents of Afrin town were primarily relying on water trucks to meet daily water needs due to an airstrike that damaged a local dam, according to the UN.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) are distributing shelter assistance and emergency relief commodities, including blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, and mattresses, to conflict-affected Afrin households, although there are unmet needs for food, lamps, stoves, and winter-specific clothing, according to the UN. In addition, SARC, with support from USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP), delivered emergency food assistance to approximately 1,000 IDPs fleeing Afrin to nearby towns in early February.

Intensified conflict in northern Hamah and southern Idlib continues to kill civilians and displace populations. Between December 25, 2017, and February 5, airstrikes and shelling killed more than 220 civilians, international media report. Meanwhile, between December 15, 2017, and January 29, the UN recorded more than 304,200 primary and secondary displacements in northern Hamah and southern Idlib; the majority of IDPs fled north to Idlib’s Atareb and Dana sub-districts and west to areas between Idlib’s Kafr Nobol and Salqin sub-districts.

On February 4, international media reported a suspected chemical attack in Idlib’s town of Saraqib. Additionally, airstrikes killed an estimated 35 civilians in southern Idlib from February 3–4, according to local media.

Due to concerns for staff safety and security in the area, the UN suspended planned shipments of humanitarian commodities through the Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salam border crossings between Turkey and Syria on January 20, the Logistics Cluster reports; both crossings remain open for commercial and non-UN humanitarian use. As of January 31, the UN had resumed operations through Bab al-Hawa, although its suspension of operations at the Bab al-Salaam transit hub remained in place as of January 31. The suspension has disrupted the transportation of humanitarian commodities to several locations in northwestern Syria, relief agencies report.

As of January 16, military operations had displaced nearly 255,000 people from and within Dayr az Zawr Governorate and approximately 318,800 people from and within Ar Raqqah Governorate during the previous 12 months, according to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster. In response, relief agencies—including USG partners—are providing emergency food, health care, shelter, and other support to affected populations.

The UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have returned to areas of origin in Ar Raqqah city since October. However, humanitarian organizations caution that many areas of the city—particularly residential areas located away from critical infrastructure—remain contaminated with explosive remnants of war, posing safety concerns for returnees; according to the UN, explosive hazards have caused an average of 60 casualties per week in Ar Raqqah city and surrounding areas in recent weeks.

Through the UN Security Council-established monitoring and reporting mechanism, USG partner the UN Children’s Program (UNICEF) verified reports of more than 2,900 grave violations against children in Syria in 2017, a more than 13 percent increase from the nearly 2,600 verified violations in 2016. The UN agency reports that recruitment of children by armed groups is of particular concern, with 18 percent of the estimated 300 verified cases in 2017 involving children younger than 15 years of age actively engaged in combat. UNICEF also verified 26 attacks on education facilities in Syria in 2017.

With support from USAID/OFDA, UNICEF provided psychosocial support to an estimated 412,000 children, including 72,000 children living in besieged and hard-to-reach (HTR) areas of Syria in 2017. Of those reached, an estimated 16,400 children received case management and referral support for additional protection services. The agency also supported approximately 160 child-friendly spaces and more than 70 mobile teams across Syria.

The temporary suspension of UN cross-border operations at the Syria–Turkey border due to insecurity, coupled with increasing demands to respond to the health needs of newly displaced populations, has resulted in dwindling availability of health commodities in Idlib, health organizations report. Notwithstanding, health staff have provided more than 10,000 medical consultations and vaccinated more than 2,000 children younger than five years of age via mobile clinics throughout the governorate in recent weeks.

On February 6, USAID/OFDA partner the UN World Health Organization (WHO) transported 17 metric tons (MT) of medical supplies, sufficient to treat at least 380,000 people, to Al Hasakah Governorate. WHO plans to use the supplies to treat both chronic illnesses and conflict-related injuries in northeastern Syria. WHO last delivered life-saving medical supplies to Al Hasakah in late December 2017, when the UN agency airlifted 19 MT of medical supplies, sufficient to treat 460,000 people, to the governorate.

As of January 30, WHO continued to report a total of 74 laboratory-confirmed cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus in Syria. According to WHO, 71 of the confirmed cases originated in Dayr az Zawr; two cases originated in Ar Raqqah, and one case originated in Homs Governorate. In response to the outbreak, health workers completed the first round of a poliovirus vaccination campaign in Al Hasakah, Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, and Homs governorates on January 21, reaching more than 665,700 children younger than five years of age, or 96 percent of the campaign’s target population.

UNICEF provided pediatric and maternal health consultations to nearly 3.1 million children and women reached through more than 110 health centers and 50 mobile health teams operating across Syria in 2017. The UN agency also distributed medical supplies to benefit more than 2 million people through interagency convoys in coordination with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and health authorities. Additionally, UNICEF continues to deliver essential medicines and medical supplies to 75 health facilities in northern Syria and is rehabilitating 15 health centers across Syria, which collectively reached an estimated 300,000 people with primary health care services in 2017.

The SARG siege on Eastern Ghouta continues to contribute to deteriorating nutrition conditions, limit the delivery of nutrition and medical supplies to the region, and prevent children experiencing malnutrition from accessing treatment services, the Nutrition Sector reports. Over the past five months, only four interagency convoys have delivered nutrition assistance to Eastern Ghouta, with no convoys delivering aid to the region since late November 2017. Despite access challenges, six humanitarian organizations were conducting nutrition activities in Eastern Ghouta as of late January, including supporting eight static health facilities, 11 mobile clinics, and nearly 80 community health workers in Eastern Ghouta’s Douma, Harasta, and Kafr Batna sub-districts.

Despite the siege and a recent escalation in conflict, some commercial access to Eastern Ghouta was possible through the Al Wafideen crossing in December 2017, resulting in increased access to food and decreased food commodity prices, according to the REACH Initiative. Cooking oil, eggs, salt, and sugar, which were largely unavailable in local markets in November 2017, were available in Eastern Ghouta markets for at least 21 days in December 2017. Additionally, the cost of a standard food basket in Eastern Ghouta decreased to approximately 220,200 SYP, or $392, in December—a 32 percent price reduction since November, REACH reports. However, the price remained nearly 800 percent higher than the cost of a food basket in nearby areas not under siege in December. While local sources reported that most Eastern Ghouta residents no longer resorted to consuming non-edible plants due to lack of food, residents continued to report going days without eating and skipping or reducing the size of meals in December, noting that food commodities remained prohibitively expensive and quantities of available food were insufficient to meet all needs.

In December 2017, WFP reached more than 3 million people in all of Syria’s 14 governorates with emergency food assistance. Among WFP beneficiaries in December were more than 131,000 people in HTR locations, including approximately 60,000 people in six HTR locations of Hamah and Homs, 50,000 people in the city of Aleppo’s HTR neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, 15,000 people in Dayr az Zawr’s HTR Abu Kamal District, and nearly 6,800 people in eastern rural Aleppo’s HTR area of Dayr Hafir.

In 2017, USAID/OFDA supported UNICEF to screen approximately 1.8 million children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) for malnutrition. In addition, UNICEF provided 2.2 million children and PLW with micronutrients, counseled an estimated 984,000 caregivers on appropriate infant and young child feeding practices, and reached approximately 939,000 PLW and children younger than five years of age—including 577,000 individuals living in besieged and HTR areas—with therapeutic nutrition and medical supplies during the year.

With State/PRM funding, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is providing winterization assistance to vulnerable populations in Syria. From October to December 2017, the UN agency provided winter-specific relief commodities—including thermal blankets, plastic sheeting, and winter clothing kits—to more than 927,500 people across the country. Using cross-border transportation mechanisms, UNHCR distributed winter clothing to nearly 45,000 people and winter-specific relief items to more than 38,000 people in southern Syria. The UN agency plans to reach nearly 1.2 million people in Syria with winterization support throughout the 2017/2018 winter season.

Meanwhile, State/PRM partner the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provided cash-based winterization support to displaced Palestinian refugees from Syria in Jordan. Between October and December 2017, UNRWA distributed cash assistance to more than 4,000 households for the purchase of electricity, heating fuel, winter clothing, and other commodities to survive cold weather temperatures.

On February 5, the Government of Kuwait announced a $900,000 contribution to UNRWA to support programs benefiting Palestinian refugees remaining in Syria. Of the estimated 438,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria, approximately 95 percent—or 418,000 people—require humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs, according to the UN.

With support from State/PRM, UNRWA distributed more than 272,000 emergency relief commodities to Palestinian refugees in Syria in 2017. UNRWA also distributed more than 156,700 hygiene kits, 81,300 blankets, and 34,100 mattresses to Palestinian refugees in Syria during the year. Additionally, State/PRM supported UNRWA to provide multi-purpose cash assistance to Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon, reaching more than 9,600 households in December 2017.

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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