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10 years on : 10 Facts that explain Syria’s conflict

As we mark the 10 year anniversary of this brutal war, the Syrian people continue to endure unimaginable levels of suffering. Here we look at ten key facts that explain this complex conflict, including how Ireland can take action, and how your generous donations to Trócaire are providing safety and support to Syrian refugees.

A man works to sweep the rubble in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo by Patrick Nicholson/Caritas A man works to sweep the rubble in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo by Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

Ten years ago, against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, violence against street protests by Syrians quickly escalated into civil war. Since that time, the war in Syria has become and remains one of the world’s largest and most deadly humanitarian crisis.

Here are ten key facts you need to understand Syria’s conflict today:

1. There has been a tragic human cost

60 year old Abd Al Maseeh looks out at the destruction in the Syrian city of Homs. Photo: Caritas Internationalis 60 year old Abd Al Maseeh looks out at the destruction in the Syrian city of Homs. Photo: Caritas Internationalis

Through the last ten years of war, the impact on the people of Syria has been devastating:

  • Over half a million people have been killed by some estimates,
  • Approximately 55,000 children have been killed,
  • Some 100,000 people have died of torture and around 100,000 are still imprisoned,
  • More than 3 million people are thought to live with some form of disability.

2.  Almost 5 million children have been born into war

Maya featured on the Trócaire box in 2019. She is a Syrian refugee who has fled the war and lives with her family in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire. Maya featured on the Trócaire box in 2019. She is a Syrian refugee who has fled the war and lives with her family in the Beqaa valley in Lebanon. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire.

4.8 million Syrian children have been born since the war started – this is almost the equivalent of the population of the Republic of Ireland. All these children have ever known is war.

Some 2.45 million children inside Syria are out of school and 1.6 million are at risk of dropping out.

3. The psychological impact of the war is immense

A child rolls a tyre amid the rubble in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo by Patrick Nicholson/Caritas A child rolls a tyre amid the rubble in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo by Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

There is widespread psychological trauma amongst people who have experienced the intense nature of this conflict and those who have been forced to flee.

  • More than 75% of Syrian refugees are reported to have PTSD,
  • Many have been forced to flee multiple times,
  • Many have lost loved ones including their children,
  • Only 15% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon report being able to access mental health supports,
  • One in three women feel unsafe in their own homes in the region, as Gender Based Violence is increasing.

4. Half of the entire Syrian population have been uprooted from their homes

 

5.5 million Syrians, have fled to neighbouring countries, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Within Syria itself, almost 7 million have fled from their homes.

Living conditions are extremely difficult for refugees. In Lebanon, nine out of ten Syrian refugee families are now living in extreme poverty.

Many refugees live under tents with only basic essentials which are not enough to guard against harsh weather conditions.  Very few are employed and, 10 years later, continue to depend on humanitarian assistance.  Their status is uncertain and many children have become young adults without a proper education or a stable home. Most don’t know what the future holds.

5. It’s not safe for many refugees to return

 

While many Syrian refugees long to leave the dehumanising situation of living in camps and return back to their homes, for most of them it simply isn’t safe to do so. For some, their houses, villages and cities have been destroyed and they have little to return to.

In a recent survey, 75% of Syrian refugees have said they would like to return home, however, out of 5.5m only around only 30,000 returned in 2020.

To return to Syria risks intimidation, violence and imprisonment. Forced disappearance or being forcibly conscripted into the army are also real risks.

It is important that any return of refugees is done in a way that is voluntary, dignified and safe.

6. The economy in Syria has collapsed

Destruction in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo : Caritas Internationalis Destruction in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo : Caritas Internationalis

Much of Syria’s infrastructure has collapsed or been destroyed. Whole towns and cities have to be rebuilt.

  • 70% of the electricity infrastructure has been damaged due to the war,
  • One in three schools are in ruins or have been commandeered by armed groups,
  • 70% of healthcare workers have fled the conflict, and only 58% of hospitals are fully functional,
  • Some estimates put the economic cost of the decade of conflict at $1 trillion.

7. There’s still a desperate need for humanitarian aid

Syrian refugee camps often face flooding and snow during harsh Winter weather. Photo : SAWA Syrian refugee camps often face flooding and snow during harsh Winter weather. Photo : SAWA

Syrian children are facing some of the most difficult conditions than they have ever had in the 10-year conflict. They are more likely now than ever to be in need of aid, go hungry, die from preventable illness, or miss school.

  • The cost of food in Syria is 33 times higher now than compared to the pre-war average,
  • Over 9 million people are at risk of going hungry,
  • 13 million people inside Syria, and a further 5.5 million Syrians refugees in the region are in need of humanitarian assistance,
  • Around 60% of Syrians lack access to safe, nutritious food,
  • 2.7 million people are living in camps in North-West Syria, outside of the Syrian government’s control. In some of these areas, 1 in 3 children are suffering from stunting.

 

8. Syrians now face the challenge of Covid

Trócaire’s local partner SAWA, sanitising Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon to tackle the challenge of Covid. Photo : SAWA Trócaire’s local partner SAWA, sanitising Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon to tackle the challenge of Covid. Photo : SAWA

On top of all of these challenges, there have been over 15,000 cases of Covid detected within Syria, and almost a thousand people have died. However these numbers are likely to be far higher, given the lack of testing and the country’s health system being devastated by the war.

Case numbers are growing and community transmission of the virus is now widespread. Given the huge problems Syria is already facing, it is extremely worrying that Covid may spread rapidly, particularly in crowded refugee camp settings where social distancing is almost impossible.

The economic fallout of Covid restrictions has hit refugees badly, particularly in Lebanon which was already experiencing a major economic collapse before Covid hit.

9. Ireland can help get aid to besieged areas

Syrian refugee children at a half-built apartment block near Reyfoun in Lebanon, close to the border with Syria, give the peace sign. Photo: Eoghan Rice Syrian refugee children at a half-built apartment block near Reyfoun in Lebanon, close to the border with Syria, give the peace sign. Photo: Eoghan Rice

In 2020, Ireland pledged €25 million in humanitarian aid. This is very welcome and it is critical that Ireland continues this support and increases it in 2021.

Now Ireland has taken up a seat on the UN Security Council, and we can play a key role in keeping Syria high on the international agenda.

One key area where Ireland can take action is humanitarian access. A fragile ceasefire is holding, but the population of north-west Syria are besieged, and it is vitally important that humanitarian agencies can continue to access this area to keep providing life-saving aid.

As well as ensuring humanitarian aid can get into these besieged areas, it is critically important that the international community adequately funds the humanitarian response. Last year, only 55% of Syria’s humanitarian needs were funded. Ireland can use its position to push for greater international support.

10. Support for refugees provides hope, safety and a new start

   Reem (7) enjoys doing art activities for Syrian refugee children at the ‘Safe Haven Centre’ provided by Trócaire’s partner SAWA. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire. Reem (7) enjoys doing art activities for Syrian refugee children at the ‘Safe Haven Centre’ provided by Trócaire’s partner SAWA. Photo : Garry Walsh / Trócaire.

Trócaire has been responding to the Syria crisis since the conflict began. We provide humanitarian assistance both in Syria and with refugees living in Lebanon. We have provided food, shelter, and basic household items.

To address the trauma from the conflict we provide counselling and psychosocial support to affected families. We also support people with skills and vocational training to help them begin to rebuild their lives.

In SAWA’s Safe Haven Centre, the refugee children enjoy playing on the swings, clambering up the climbing frame and spinning around in the playground. Photo: Simon Walsh / Trócaire. In SAWA’s Safe Haven Centre, the refugee children enjoy playing on the swings, clambering up the climbing frame and spinning around in the playground. Photo: Simon Walsh / Trócaire.

Despite the ongoing conflict and the threat of Covid, our brave local partners continue their work on the ground. We will continue to respond to the Syria crisis and support refugees in Lebanon. We will be there as long as needed.

This year, Trócaire’s Lent campaign will help to support people affected by conflict in places like Syria, South Sudan and Somalia. If you are in a position to do so, please consider donating to our appeal. It can change lives and save lives. Thank you.

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