The Platform

A Syrian refugee along the Turkey-Syria border.

Humanitarian aid is helping millions of Syrians affected by the country’s still ongoing civil war.

The Syrian civil war has endured for over a decade, resulting in millions of Syrians forcibly displaced, both internally and abroad. Amidst this turmoil, humanitarian aid in Syria has peaked with seven in ten Syrians now dependent on such assistance. These individuals bear the burden of ongoing conflict, displacement, a pandemic, and even a recent devastating earthquake. The European Union and its member states, as the principal contributors of humanitarian aid to Syrians, have remained steadfast in their commitment since the crisis began.

In 2023, the European Commission is set to disburse approximately €170 million in humanitarian aid to assist millions of Syrians. To combat crises such as cholera outbreaks, food insecurity, and the February earthquake, the EU has gradually boosted its humanitarian funding this year. These funds have been instrumental in providing essentials like blankets, hygiene and cooking supplies, and much-needed medical facilities to those displaced.

However, even after a decade of relentless conflict, Syria’s humanitarian needs have escalated to unprecedented levels. Tragically, there has been negligible progress toward a political resolution, leaving millions of Syrian refugees in neighboring nations grappling with intensifying challenges. The world’s most severe refugee crisis, ironically, has faded from the spotlight. This critical issue has, unfortunately, disappeared from the media discourse, and the allocated funding falls short of the escalating needs. Even before the calamitous earthquake, over 15 million Syrians—over two-thirds of the population—required urgent humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been relentlessly providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees. The organization prioritizes the most vulnerable individuals, furnishing financial aid for medical and other essential supplies, distributing heating stoves and fuel, improving tent insulation, and supplying thermal blankets and winter clothing. The UNHCR also ensures access to clean water and sanitation facilities for refugees. For those displaced within Syria, the organization offers shelter kits, household items, and a range of protection services, including psychosocial support. The UNHCR also plays a co-leading role in the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), a comprehensive initiative that aims to bolster local and national systems to effectively serve both host communities and refugees.

The United Nations’ agricultural support is also providing some relief to Syria during its ongoing crisis. The Wheat Support and Water Scarcity Challenge project has aided 50 returnee farmers by providing drip irrigation networks and water pumps. Beneficiaries were not only equipped with drip irrigation systems but also received education on irrigation networks and composting to boost self-sufficiency. In an effort to bolster food security for approximately 4,000 households, the project also worked to restore a bakery with a daily capacity of 12 tons.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) stands as one of the world’s largest humanitarian actors, employing the Migration Crisis Operational Framework (MCOF) to address the mobility aspects of the crisis. The MCOF is an operational tool used to fortify and coordinate the organization’s efforts to aid member states and partners in better preparing for and responding to migration emergencies.

Within Syria, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has over 1,000 personnel delivering life-saving healthcare, safety, and support to the populations they serve. As conflict, displacement, poverty, COVID-19, and the recent earthquake continue to devastate Syria, the IRC is ramping up its response by providing food and emergency cash aid, running clinics and mobile teams for medical services, integrating mental health services into primary care, promoting economic stability and early childhood development, and much more.

Countries like Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon continue their efforts to aid Syrian refugees, echoing the work they’ve been doing since 2012. “Roads and infrastructure, such as bridges, have been damaged, making it more difficult to get supplies to those who need them the most,” explains Tanya Evans, the IRC’s Syria country director. “Even before the earthquakes, humanitarian access to northwest Syria was limited, with most aid arriving through a single crossing point with Turkey. In this time of rising need, aid crossing levels must expand at the same rate.”

Mahmodul Hasan Shesheir is a public health researcher. Mahmodul holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics from East West University, Bangladesh. He is currently a research assistant at the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University. His interests include public health, education, poverty, micro economics, and development.

Maliha Mehnaz Mitu holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Applied Statistics from the University of Dhaka. Maliha is currently a Research Associate at the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health. Maliha’s primary areas of interest include public health, causal inference, and biostatistics. Maliha’s professional goal is to promote the use of evidence-based decision-making in public health policies.