With the onset of the crisis in Syria in 2011, UNHCR expanded the scope of its operations to respond to the humanitarian needs of increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), asylum-seekers and refugees, and host communities.
Against the above backdrop, in addition to maintaining a refugee operation, responding to the needs of some 55,000 refugees and asylum seekers, UNHCR’s response to the Syrian displacement crisis is conducted in the framework of the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), through a Country Office and Sub\Field Offices in Damascus, Aleppo, Qamishli, Tartous, Homs, Hama and Sweida, operating with a workforce of national and international staff and international and national NGO partners.
UNHCR’s activities encompass provision of life-saving/life-sustaining assistance, mitigation of protection risks and response to protection needs, self-reliance, livelihoods, as well as winterization programme and response to the urgent needs of spontaneous returnees and the preparation for an eventual facilitated repatriation of refugees from neighboring countries and further afield when conditions for return in safety and dignity emerge.
In 2018, more than 1.6 million people moved across Syria. 11.7 million people in Syria remained in need of humanitarian assistance, including 6.2 million Syrians internally displaced. As people were forced into further displacement, UNHCR in partnership with SARC, international and national NGOs continued to provide life-saving assistance to those in need. In the midst of emergencies, more than 1.4 million internally displaced and more than 56,000 refugees returned in 2018.
UNHCR together with its partners provided a combination of prioritized services including; shelter rehabilitation, minor repair and rehabilitation of schools, health points and bakeries.
UNHCR through its partners also established satellite centres and mobile units, where community-based protection services were provided through livelihoods projects, remedial classes, sexual and gender based violence awareness raising activities, recreational activities, vocational trainings, as well as provision of free-of-charge legal aid, including counselling, representation before responsible authorities and awareness-raising on civil status documentation and HLP-related documentation matters.
By the end of 2018, UNHCR reached more than 2.3 million people through 98 community centres, 26 satellite centres, 100 mobile units and 2,849 outreach volunteers in 12 governorates across Syria.
In 2018, some two million children were out of school. Working closely with UNICEF, UNHCR through its education programmes, provided remedial classes and accelerated learning activities helping thousands of students, to catch up and integrate in the national education system.
In 2018, 4.2 million people remained in need of shelter, and many shelters in the return areas were damaged. To meet the enormous shelter needs UNHCR designed and planned the “doors and windows” project, implemented by the community, for the community.
In 2018 UNHCR reached more than 2.7 million individuals through its CRI and winterization programme.
Some 70 per cent of the population in Syria continued living in extreme poverty and in the light of the severe impact of the crisis, unemployment increased to 55 per cent. To reduce protection vulnerabilities, UNHCR, together with partners, including FAO, UNDP and national and international NGOs introduced innovative livelihood projects. At the end of 2018, UNHCR had distributed 7,323 livelihood kits across Syria.