Mercy Corps has been working in Syria since 2008, delivering emergency assistance and support both before and during the ongoing crisis. In 2019, our work reached 1.4 million people across the country.
What started in 2011 as peaceful anti-government protests has since turned into the most violent conflict since WWII. With a pre-war population of 22 million people, an overwhelming majority of Syrians have been affected by years of violence, displacement, suffering and loss. About six out of every 10 people in Syria — 11.1 million in total — are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Over 40 per cent of them are children under 18.
More than 12 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began, with almost half seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon. An estimated 6.6 million people are internally displaced. In early 2020, hostilities in the northwest displaced more than 950,000 people — the largest displacement since the conflict began almost ten years ago.
More than half a million people have been killed by the conflict, though the United Nations stopped estimating the death toll in 2014, as the scale and complexity of the conflict has made it impossible to calculate those lost with any certainty.
The situation inside Syria remains dire. In 2019, an alarming 83 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line. A third of the population was food insecure, 6.2 million people were in acute need of basic water, sanitation and hygiene services, and some 2.1 million children were out of school.
We are supporting those affected by the conflict in both Syria and neighbouring countries by providing emergency assistance to meet basic needs, creating safe spaces for youth, increasing economic opportunities and more. Our work has changed the lives of millions of Syrians, and is focused around the following priority areas:
Now, as Syrians face the threat of COVID‑19, needs on the ground are at an all-time high. We are adapting our programmes so that we can still safely deliver emergency assistance and protect the communities we serve. In northwest Syria, we’ve increased the amount of soap and water we provide to each family, and provided more water tanks to improve safe water storage. We are also distributing COVID‑19 flyers in camps and educating communities on how to stay safe.
We distribute cash and vouchers to help conflict-affected communities meet their basic needs. We also distribute essential items including food, clothing, winter survival kits, clean water and sanitation.
When families flee from violence, we work to help them find safe places to stay, and provide them with household basics like blankets and pots for cooking. We also support people displaced to camps, informal settlements and communities with water trucking, desludging and garbage collection to help them stay healthy.
In northwestern Syria, we reached more than 220,000 people with emergency assistance between November 2019 and April 2020, including emergency supplies, critical water, sanitation and hygiene services, and protection assistance.
We create safe spaces and facilitate activities to help children heal from trauma. Activities help young people cope with conflict, and provide pathways for youth to build a better future for both themselves and for Syria.
Discover more about our work with Syrian youth and the impact of the Syrian crisis on adolescents in our report Adolescence Lost.
We help local economies by supporting small businesses with skills training and cash grants, and provide employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, especially to youth, through tailored vocational training and apprenticeships.
We also help farmers increase their food production through training and the provision of supplies like quality seed and irrigation kits. This support goes a long way — giving farmers more income and agency, while providing communities with more food (and more variety to choose from).