Syria refugee crisis FAQ: How the war is affecting children

Syria crisis: Fast facts

• 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance due to a violent civil war.1
• 4.8 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.5 million are displaced within Syria; half of those affected are children.2
• Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. See photo slideshow.
• 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.3
• Peace negotiations continue despite a fraying and piecemeal ceasefire.

Why are Syrians fleeing their homes?

• Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began, 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, healthcare, education systems, and other infrastructure have been destroyed; the economy is shattered.
• 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 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.

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 #PrayForRefugees.
• Compassion: Read this article in Christianity Today by World Vision President, Rich Stearns about treating refugees with the compassion of Christ.


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How does the war in Syria affect children?

Read about how the war is affecting Syria's children in a special report from the 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.

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

Since the Syria crisis began in 2011, 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. Learn more about how World Vision responds to emergencies with short-term relief and long-term recovery. View response map to see how we've helped so far (PDF).

• Syria: Food aid, health assistance, hygiene support, baby care kits, water and sanitation, shelter repair kits, 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.

• Serbia: Basic necessities, including cold-weather gear for refugees traveling to Europe; Child-Friendly Spaces and rest areas for women and babies.


Help refugees today. 

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Ways to help refugees

Raise funds to help refugees

Set up a fundraising page to share with your friends. 


Do something at your church

Host a Refugee Sunday event at your church. Learn how it works.


Raise your voice for refugees

Ask your representatives to work together to help refugees.


Related content

FREE ebook

Learn how to help your church understand their role. Download the ebook (PDF) by World Vision President, Rich Stearns.


Refugee Hub

Learn more about how to help refugees and what World Vision doing on their behalf.

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.