FAQs: War in Syria, children, and the refugee crisis

Read our overview of the conflict in Syria, the refugee situation in neighboring countries, and World Vision’s response to the crisis.

By Chris Huber and Kathryn Reid, World Vision U.S.
Updated October 29, 2014 at 11:00am PDT

More than 1.6 million Syrian children are refugees, the United Nations says. An upsurge in fighting has complicated aid efforts and driven some families deeper into despair.

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

How many people have fled their homes?

More than 6.5 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Syria, and 3.2 million have fled as refugees to neighboring countries.

Does the number of refugees show any sign of slowing?

No. On average, more than 100,000 Syrians register as refugees every month. Their main destinations are Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, though conflict in Iraq now discourages that option. The U.N. refugee agency anticipates 3.6 million registered refugees by the end of 2014.

What are the refugees’ greatest needs?

Refugees need food, clothing, 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. As winter approaches, they also will need warmer clothing and stoves and fuel for heat and cooking.

Where are the refugees living?

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.

As of October 28, Turkey is hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees. Iraq, facing its own armed conflict, is hosting about 220,000 Syrians.

More than 610,000 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 12,400 live in Azraq, a camp that opened at the end of April.

What risks do children face?

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

Because of the breakdown of the Syrian health system and lack of adequate immunization, there have been outbreaks of measles and even polio in Syria and among refugee children.

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.

What is the impact on refugee children’s education?

After more than three years of conflict, at least 3 million children have left education. For children in Syria, the reasons are many: schools destroyed or occupied by warring groups or displaced families, teachers absent or deceased, and insecurity.

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 Child-Friendly Spaces — safe areas where children can play and recover from emotional scars.


With reporting from Brian Jonson and Patricia Mouamar, World Vision communications staff in Lebanon, Meg Sattler in Jordan, and Chris Huber and Kathryn Reid in the United States.

Learn more

How you can help

  • Pray for children and families impacted by the violence in Syria. Pray especially for families who have been separated due to the conflict, and pray for emotional and physical protection for vulnerable children and families. Consider using our prayer points as a guide.
  • Make a one-time donation to help those affected by conflict in Syria. Your contribution will help provide essentials like hygiene kits and established Child-Friendly Spaces, as well as stoves, fuel, and shelter materials.
  • Speak out. Join us in calling on world leaders to take action to ensure the immediate protection of children.


  • More than 9.7 million Syrians have been displaced by the fighting — at least 6.5 million within Syria, and 3.2 million as refugees in neighboring countries.
  • Refugee children are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.
  • World Vision is assisting Syrian refugee families with interventions like clean water, sanitation, cash assistance to purchase food, hygiene kits, basic household goods, clothing, Child-Friendly Spaces, and education programs.

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