Three million and counting: The rising humanitarian crisis inside Syria

Briefing Notes, 10 December 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 December 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Syria, and since the start of 2013, UNHCR has brought relief supplies to more than three million people. This includes internally displaced people and others simply vulnerable and needing help. With Syria's crisis having now passed 1000 days, the amount of aid we have been able to deliver is still nowhere near enough.

UNHCR's assistance has reached all of Syria's 14 governorates, and each week sees a further approximately 250 trucks being dispatched. We have participated in more than 40 inter-agency cross-line missions into conflict zones. Over 35 per cent of UNHCR assistance has been to displaced persons in hard-to-reach or "hot spot" areas.

Aid deliveries are managed by UNHCR and done with the support of local partners. Our recent supply efforts have focused on helping civilian populations in Aleppo and Rural Damascus, the two governorates hosting the majority of internally displaced persons. Aid has also gone to Idlib, one of the most difficult areas to reach, and Hama, where security prevented UNHCR from delivering any assistance between May and the end of November.

UNHCR has presences in most governorates, and 370 staff. The aid we send out supports families to look after their own daily needs and typically might include blankets, mattresses, sleeping mats, diapers, sanitary napkins, plastic sheeting, jerry cans, kitchen sets and hygiene kits. So far in 2013, UNHCR has procured, stored, transported and delivered over 7.3 million separate relief items working with selected local NGO partners and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

Despite the scale of these efforts over the past months, the needs remain immense, and insecurity routinely prevents access to many areas. With an estimated 6.5 million people now internally displaced and many more in need of help, we have been working to provide additional support including healthcare (971,000 beneficiaries), legal protection and community services (155,000 beneficiaries), shelter rehabilitation (70 shelters) and financial assistance for the most vulnerable (175,000 beneficiaries). We have also been involved in the inter-agency effort led by WHO and UNICEF to vaccinate children against polio. Vaccines for 538,000 children were recently airlifted to Al Hassakeh and other hard-to-reach locations in north-eastern Syria.

Guest Speaker: Amin Awad, Director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa bureau.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman, Peter Kessler on mobile +962 79 631 79 01
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Dan McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 3011
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Syria Emergency: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

A Face in a Million: the Struggle of Syria's Refugees in Lebanon

They are everywhere in Lebanon - 1 million Syrian refugees, in a land of 4.8 million people. There are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Instead, most rent apartments and others live in makeshift shelters and in garages, factories and prisons. Three years after the Syria crisis began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. It's struggling to keep pace with the influx. Rents have spiked, accommodation is scarce; food prices are rising. Meanwhile, a generation could be lost. Half of Syria's refugees are children; most don't go to school. Instead many of them work to help their families survive. Some marry early, others must beg to make a bit of money. Yet they share the same dream of getting an education.

In the northern city of Tripoli, many of the Syrians live in Al Tanak district, dubbed "Tin City." Long home to poor locals, it is now a surreal suburb - garbage piled to one side, a Ferris wheel on the other. The inhabitants share their dwellings with rats. "They're as big as cats," said one. "They're not scared of us, we're scared of them."

Award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario visited Tin City and other areas of Lebanon with UNHCR to show the faces and suffering of Syrians to the world. Addario, in publications such as The New York Times and National Geographic, has highlighted the victims of conflict and rights abuse around the world, particularly women.

A Face in a Million: the Struggle of Syria's Refugees in Lebanon

Syria Crisis Third Anniversary: A Child of the Conflict

Ashraf was born the very day the Syria conflict began: March 15, 2011. He is the seventh child in a family from Homs. Within a week of his birth, the conflict arrived in his neighbourhood. For months his family rarely left the house. Some days there was non-stop bombing, others were eerily quiet. On the quiet days, Ashraf's mother made a run with him to the local health clinic for vaccinations and check-ups.

When Ashraf was about 18 months old, his aunt, uncle and cousin were murdered - their throats slit - as the boy slept nearby in his family's home. Terrified that they were next, Ashraf's family crammed into their car, taking a few precious belongings, and drove to the border.

They left behind their home, built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Within days the house was looted and destroyed. Photographer Andrew McConnell visited the family at their new home, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which was also built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Located on the edge of a muddy field, it is a patchwork of plastic sheeting, canvas and scrap metal. The floor is covered with blankets and mattresses from UNHCR. They now face new challenges such as the daily battle to keep the children warm, dry and protected from rats. Ashraf still starts at sudden loud noises, but the doctor told his mother that the boy would get used to it.

Syria Crisis Third Anniversary: A Child of the Conflict

Forced to grow up too soon in Lebanon: Mahmoud

Mahmoud,15, hasn't been to school in 3 years. In his native Syria, his parents were afraid to send him because of the civil war. They ended up fleeing a year ago when, in the early morning hours, a bomb fell on a nearby house. The family, still groggy from being jolted awake, grabbed what they could and fled to Lebanon. Their home and the local school have since been destroyed.

In Lebanon, Mahmoud's father is unable to find work and now the family can barely afford rent.

A month ago, Mahmoud started working for tips cleaning fish at a small shop next to his home. He makes about $60 USD a month. With this money he helps pay rent on his family's tiny underground room, shared between his parents and eight brothers and sisters. Mahmoud is proud to help his family but with the fish shop located in the same subterranean structure as his home, he barely goes out into the sunshine.

Children like Mahmoud, some as young as seven, often work long hours for little pay, and in some cases in dangerous conditions. These children forfeit their future by missing out on an education and the carefree years of childhood. Many are also traumatized by what they witnessed back in Syria.

UNHCR and its partners together with local governments are providing financial assistance to help vulnerable Syrian refugee families cover expenses like rent and medical care, which means there is less need to pull children out of school and put them to work. UN agencies and their partners have also established case management and referral systems in Jordan and Lebanon to identify children at risk and refer them to the appropriate services.

Forced to grow up too soon in Lebanon: Mahmoud

Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern AleppoPlay video

Syria: Aid Reaches Eastern Aleppo

An agreement between the Syrian Government and the opposition allows UNHCR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged city of Aleppo.
Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing CrisisPlay video

Jordan: Syrian Refugees' Housing Crisis

Hundreds of thousands of refugees living in urban areas are struggling to survive. They face rising rents, inadequate accommodation, and educational challenges for their children.
Jordan: Shahad Finds her VoicePlay video

Jordan: Shahad Finds her Voice

Four-year-old Shahad is among hundreds of thousands of Syrian children suffering from the traumatic effects of the war in Syria. After a bomb attack on her family home, she stopped speaking.