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FAQs: Syria’s War, Children, and the Refugee Crisis

Here’s an overview of the conflict in Syria, the refugee situation in nearby countries, and our response.

| By World Vision staff




  • Nearly 12 million Syrians have been displaced by the fighting — at least 7.6 million within Syria, and more than 4 million as refugees in neighboring countries.
  • About half of those displaced are children.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.
  • We’re assisting affected families with interventions like clean water, cash assistance for food, hygiene kits, basic household goods, clothing, Child-Friendly Spaces, and education.

A nation and region ruined by war

Syria’s conflict has devastated the nation. More than 240,000 people have been killed, including 12,000 children. One million more are wounded or permanently disabled.  An upsurge in fighting has complicated aid efforts and driven some families deeper into despair.

Here’s some background information on the humanitarian needs in the fourth year of war in Syria.

How many people have fled their homes?

More than half of the country’s population of 22 million has been forced to leave their homes. Many of them have moved multiple times since the conflict began in March 2011.

At least 7.6 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Syria, and more than 4 million have fled as refugees to neighboring countries. An estimated 4.8 million are in areas that are difficult to access because of the conflict. It’s hard for aid groups to reach them.

About half of those displaced are children.

Does the number of refugees show any sign of slowing?

No. In the first five months of 2015, more than 700,000 people were newly displaced, including more than 430,000 within Syria.

The 4 million Syrian refugees have relocated primarily to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan. Increasing numbers are attempting to reach Europe.

Tour a Child-Friendly Space for Syrian Refugee Children


What are the refugees’ greatest needs?

Refugees need food, clothing, health assistance, shelter, and basic household and hygiene items. They need reliable supplies of clean water, as well as sanitation facilities.

Children need a safe, protective environment and a chance to play and go to school. Adults need employment options in case of long-term displacement.

Where are the refugees living?

Turkey is hosting more than 1.9 million Syrian refugees. Iraq, facing its own armed conflict, is hosting about 250,000 Syrians.

More than 1.1 million refugees are in Lebanon. Many have taken up residence there in communities’ abandoned buildings, sheds, spare rooms, garages, and in tent settlements on vacant land. Conditions are often crowded and unsanitary. Even so, families struggle to pay rent for these spaces.

About 630,000 refugees have settled in Jordan, mostly with host families or in rented accommodations. About 80,000 live in Za’atari, a camp near the northern border with Syria, and about 22,000 live in another camp, Azraq, where World Vision set up much of the water and sanitation system.

What risks do children face?

Children are especially susceptible to malnutrition and diseases related to poor sanitation. Many suffer from diarrheal diseases and dehydration.

Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in unfamiliar and overcrowded conditions. Without adequate income to support their families and fearful of their daughters being molested, parents — especially single mothers — may opt to arrange marriage for girls as young as 13.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2015, warring parties in Syria forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles.

Snapshots From the Lives of Syrian Refugees

What is the impact on refugee children’s education?

Between 2.1 and 2.4 million school age children are not attending school. In Syria, 5,000 to 14,000 schools have been damaged, destroyed or occupied since 201. The decline in education for Syrian children has been the sharpest and most rapid in the history of the region, according to UNICEF.

For refugee families that don’t live in camps, paying rent and other expenses can make it difficult for parents to afford books, uniforms, and tuition fees for their children. In some cases, children must give up school and start work to help provide for their families.

In Lebanon, the government has opened public schools to Syrian children, but language barriers, overcrowding, and the cost of transportation keep many refugee children out of school.

What is World Vision doing to meet people’s needs?

World Vision provides aid to refugees and host communities in Lebanon and Jordan. Aid includes distributing personal and household supplies and providing clean water and sanitation. Programs for children include remedial and supplemental education so they can return to school, as well as safe places where children can play and recover from emotional scars.

The organization is also working in northern Syria, providing critical food aid, hygiene support, health assistance, and water and sanitation.

Displaced Iraqis in the Kurdish northern region benefit from food aid, health services, and children’s programming. World Vision also recently furnished 5,000 baby kits for a local partner to distribute to newly-arrived Syrian refugees in Turkey.

You can help children and families affected by the Syria refugee crisis. Give Now
Reporting from Brian Jonson and Patricia Mouamar, World Vision communications staff in Lebanon and Jordan, and Chris Huber, Kathryn Reid, and Denise C. Koenig in the United States.

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