More than 30,000 people have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo in the week since government and opposition forces struck a ceasefire deal. The city, once Syria’s largest, lies in ruins after five years of fierce fighting. Freezing weather conditions added insult to injury, as some families resorted to burning their belongings to stay warm while they waited for busses to take them out of the city.
A crisis within a crisis is unfolding as tens of thousands of displaced people are inundating villages and camps in the countryside outside Aleppo.
“As the evacuees slowly recover from the shock of their ordeal, we’re starting to hear harrowing stories from children who have seen their parents die right in front of them,” said Chris Latif, World Vision’s response manager for northern Syria. “The death and destruction they’ve witnessed is beyond belief.”
Since the mass exodus began Dec. 13, World Vision has distributed about 2,500 blankets and 1,000 mattresses to 3,500 people — about 700 families. Preparations are under way to provide thousands more, along with kerosene heaters, jerry cans, and hygiene kits.
Stay informed with periodic Syria refugee updates.
In addition, we are currently helping about 100,000 people fleeing recent violence in the area. World Vision is working in Tel Abiad, A’zaz, Jarabulus, and Manbij districts within the Aleppo Governorate to:
- Provide clean water and sanitation services
- Support primary and mobile health clinics
- Operate women and young child centers
- Support the district’s women and children’s hospital with equipment and supplies
“As we go about our holiday preparations, the families and children of Aleppo are literally being massacred,” says Rich Stearns, World Vision U.S. president. “We must never lose our capacity to feel outrage when human beings are so callously slaughtered, and then we must turn that outrage into action. Pray, give, and raise your voices in support of these Syrian families.”
A recent survey showed that American Christians are less likely to pray for and help refugees this year than a year ago.
Syrian refugee crisis: Fast facts
- 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance due to a violent civil war that began in 2011.
- 4.8 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria; half of those affected 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. View these photos to see life through the eyes of Syrian refugee children.
- Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; slightly more than 10 percent of the refugees have fled to Europe.
- Peace negotiations continue despite a fraying and piecemeal ceasefire.
Children under siege in Aleppo
“The children of Syria have experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” says Dr. Christine Latif, World Vision’s response manager for Turkey and northern Syria.
World Vision staff say the situation in Aleppo city is the most dire they have ever seen it. Health supplies and clean water are urgently needed. Aid hasn’t reached the city since mid-July.
“Civilians have been continually in harm’s way, caught in the cross-fire and changing front lines. Civilian infrastructure has been targeted, leading to mass civilian casualties, including women and children,” says Angela Huddleston, program manager for the World Vision’s Syria response.
World Vision’s work in Syria
- Food assistance
- Primary healthcare in health facilities and mobile clinics
- Medical and nutritional aid for women and children
- Baby care kits for displaced families
- Water and sanitation services
- Child protection outreach to communities
- Psychosocial care and play for children
Pray with us for Syrian refugees: God, You love the little children. Each Syrian child is precious to You. Please protect children in the middle of this conflict. We ask You to bring peace to Syria for the sake of Your children. In Your name, Amen.
Why are Syrians leaving their homes?
- Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, as many as 386,000 people have been killed, including nearly 14,000 children, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.
- Collapsed infrastructure: Within Syria, 95 percent of people lack adequate healthcare, 70 percent lack regular access to clean water. Half the children are out of school. The economy is shattered and four-fifths of the population lives in poverty.
- Children in danger and distress: Syrian children — the nation’s hope for a better future — have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and witnessed unspeakable 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.
Most refugees from Syria are still in the region. They’ve fled violence and sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Around 10 percent are taking the dangerous journey to Europe. (©2016 World Vision)
How does the war in Syria affect children?
Read about how the war is affecting Syria’s children in a special report from World Vision magazine, “Syria Crisis and the Scars of War.”
- Children are susceptible to malnutrition and diseases brought on by poor sanitation, including diarrheal diseases like cholera. Cold weather increases the risk of pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
- Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labor in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Prayer: Learn how you can pray for Syrian refugees. Join with others as we pray for refugees.
- Compassion: Read this article in Christianity Today by World Vision President Rich Stearns about treating refugees with the compassion of Christ.
How is World Vision helping refugees and others affected by the Syrian refugee crisis?
Since the Syria crisis began in 2011, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Learn more about how World Vision responds to emergencies with short-term relief and long-term recovery.
- Syria: Food aid, health assistance, hygiene support, baby care kits, water and sanitation, shelter repair kits, and winterization supplies.
- Iraq: Food aid, health services, water and sanitation, baby kits, stoves and other winter supplies; for children: education and recreation, programming for life skills, peace building, and resilience.
- Jordan and Lebanon: Personal and household supplies, clean water and sanitation, education and recreation, Child-Friendly Spaces and child protection training for adults, winter kits, and psychosocial support for children.
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 U.S.