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What you need to know: Crisis in Syria, refugees, and the impact on children

Below is an overview of the Syria refugee crisis, its impact on children, and how you can help.

| By World Vision staff



Syria crisis: Fast facts

  • 12 million Syrians have fled their homes because of conflict; half are children.
  • 4 million Syrians are refugees; most are in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.
  • More than 700,000 Syrian refugees and other migrants risked their lives this year to travel to Europe.


After more than four years of conflict, what’s so urgent now?

Winter is coming: Refugees in settlements have fewer resources than ever before. They need adequate food, warm clothes, shoes, blankets, heaters, and fuel.

Despite rain and cold, the human tide of refugees is still coming; every day, thousands more attempt sea crossings to reach Europe.

More than 3,200 have perished this year, including Aylan, a little Syrian boy whose photo touched hearts around the world.

More: A Google map perspective of a refugee’s
foot journey from Syria to Serbia

Why Syrians are fleeing: Three reasons

  1. Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began, more than 240,000 people have been killed, including 12,000 children. One million more have been wounded or permanently disabled. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.
  2. Collapsed infrastructure: Within Syria, healthcare, education systems, and other infrastructure have been destroyed; the economy is shattered. An estimated 4.8 million people are in areas of Syria that are difficult to access because of the conflict. It’s hard for aid groups to reach them.
  3. Children’s safety: Syrian children — the nation’s hope for a better future — have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and witnessed violence and brutality. Warring parties forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles, according to the U.S. State Department.

What are the refugees’ greatest needs?

Syrians fleeing conflict need all the basics to sustain their lives: food, clothing, health assistance, shelter, and household and hygiene items.

They need reliable supplies of clean water, as well as sanitation facilities.

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

As winter comes, refugees need warm clothing, shoes, bedding, heaters, and heating fuel.

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 23,700 live in another camp, Azraq, where World Vision set up much of the water and sanitation system.

For more, read our special report, “Syria Crisis and the Scars of War,”
at World Vision magazine.
Read More

Four risks that children face

  1. Children are susceptible to malnutrition and diseases brought on by poor sanitation, including diarrheal diseases like cholera.
  2. Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labor in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.
  3. 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, some as young as 13.
  4. Between 2 million and 3 million Syrian children are not attending school. The U.N. children’s agency says the war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.

Snapshots from the lives of Syrian refugees

What is the impact on 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 2011. 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.

How is World Vision helping refugees and others affected by the crisis?

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. We also provide aid in Serbia to refugees fleeing to Europe.

  • Syria: food aid, hygiene support, health assistance, and water and sanitation
  • Iraq: food aid, health services, water and sanitation, and children’s programming
  • Jordan and Lebanon: personal and household supplies, clean water and sanitation, education support, Child-Friendly Spaces
  • Serbia: basic necessities, including cold-weather gear for refugees traveling to Europe; Child-Friendly Spaces and rest areas for women and babies
Become a World Vision Refugee Responder to help provide life-saving essentials for refugees.
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Created with 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.