Syrian refugee crisis: Facts you need to know

Six years of war has torn Syria apart. Violent reactions to peaceful protests throughout the country descended Syria into chaos in early 2011. Syrian children and families have borne the brunt of the conflict’s disastrous consequences. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and more than half of the population — 11 million people — have been displaced from their homes

March 15 marks the sixth anniversary of the war’s outbreak. Since then, 5 million Syrians have fled to other countries as refugees and more than 6 million displaced within the country. In many cases, children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing family members or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling behind in school. 

Here are some facts you should know about the conflict, its effect on families, and how World Vision is helping them.

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Syrian refugee crisis explained: Fast facts

Interactive map: Syria refugee crisis

Interactive map of Syria refugee crisis and World Vision's response.

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 is helping about 100,000 people fleeing recent violence in Aleppo with:

  • Clean water and sanitation services
  • Primary and mobile health clinic support
  • Women and young child centers
  • Support for a women and children’s hospital with equipment and supplies

A recent survey showed that American Christians are less likely to pray for and help refugees now than a little over a year ago.

Help children and families fleeing violence in Syria

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.

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, peacebuilding, 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.
Map of World Vision's response to the Syrian refugee crisis


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.

Help children and families fleeing the violence in Syria

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