Read our overview of the conflict in Syria, the refugee situation in neighboring countries, and World Vision’s response to the crisis.
Nearly 2 million Syrian children are refugees, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports. An upsurge in fighting has complicated aid efforts and driven some families deeper into despair.
Here’s background on the humanitarian needs in the fourth year of war in Syria.
More than 7.6 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Syria, and 3.8 million have fled as refugees to neighboring countries.
Between December 30 and January 1, the United Nations counted about 500,000 new refugees among the 3.8 million that fled Syria to neighboring countries.
Chilling winter weather has settled over much of the Middle East region.
Refugees need food, winter clothing, stoves and fuel for heat and cooking, and basic household and hygiene items. They need reliable supplies of clean water and sanitation facilities.
Children need a safe, protective environment and a chance to play and go to school.
Adults need employment options to provide for their families while displaced.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance says 12.2 million people inside Syria need some form of help, including millions of children who cannot go to school.
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.
Turkey hosts more than 1.6 million Syrian refugees. Iraq, facing its own armed conflict, is hosting about 233,000 Syrians.
Nearly 620,000 refugees have settled in Jordan, mostly with host families or in rented accommodations.
About 84,000 live in Za’atari, a camp near the northern border with Syria, and about 11,000 live in Azraq, a camp that opened last April to ease the pressure at Za’atari.
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.
After nearly four years of brutal conflict, half of Syria’s children are out of school, the BBC reports.
For children inside 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.
Since the war began, World Vision has helped more than 1.7 million people in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria.
Aid efforts include distributing personal and household supplies, providing food monthly vouchers and stoves and fuel for heating and cooking, and providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Programs for children include remedial and supplemental education so they can return to school, as well as safe places where children can play and receive counseling to help cope with their difficult circumstances.
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.