FAQs: Syria's war, children, and the refugee crisis

By World Vision staff
Oct 30, 2014
©2013 Jon Warren/World Vision
Syrian refugee children Semer, 2, and his sister, Islam, 1, are thin and lethargic. Their mother, Nura, fears for their health during the winter. The family lives in Jordan.
© 2013 Nicholas Ralph/World Vision
A Syrian refugee family crowds around a heater and cooking stove in their tent in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. World Vision helps thousands of families get through the winter months with stoves, heating oil, and other household necessities.
©2013 Jon Warren/World Vision
Children play with debris kicked up by dust devils at Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan. "We play with what we can; we try to make friends with each other," says a girl named Rama, 11.
© 2013 Patricia Mouamar/World Vision
Rouaa, 4, lives in a garage with her mother, siblings, and two other families in Lebanon. Almost everything they own, including the borrowed mattresses they sleep on, is stained by oil and grease.
©2013 Meg Sattler/World Vision
Refugee children peer out from their house in Jarash, Jordan. Two-thirds of refugees in Jordan do not live in refugee camps. They live invisible lives in host communities, out of school and without access to many basic services.
©2012 Marwan Tahtah/World Vision
Many children who have fled war-torn Syria have lost their homes or witnessed violence and destruction.

More than 1.6 million Syrian children are refugees, the United Nations says. An upsurge in fighting has complicated aid efforts and driven some families deeper into despair. Here's background on the humanitarian needs in the fourth year of war in Syria. 



How many people have fled their homes?

More than 6.5 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Syria, and more than 3.2 million have fled as refugees to neighboring countries.



Does the number of refugees show any sign of slowing?


No. On average, more than 100,000 Syrians register as refugees every month. Their main destinations are Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, though conflict in Iraq discourages that option. The UN refugee agency anticipates 3.6 million registered refugees by the end of 2014.


What are the refugees’ greatest needs?


Refugees need food, clothing, and basic household and hygiene items. They need reliable supplies of clean water, and sanitation facilities. Children need a safe, protective environment and a chance to play and go to school. Adults need employment options in case of long-term displacement. As winter approaches, they will need warmer clothing and stoves and fuel for heat and cooking.

Where are the refugees living?


More than 1.1 million refugees are in Lebanon. Many have taken up residence there in communities’ abandoned buildings, sheds, spare rooms, garages, and in tent settlements on vacant land. Conditions are often crowded and unsanitary. Even so, families struggle to pay rent for these spaces.

As of Oct. 28, Turkey is hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees. Iraq, facing its own armed conflict, is hosting about 220,000 Syrians.

More than 610,000 refugees have settled in Jordan, mostly with host families or in rented accommodations. About 80,000 live in Za’atari, a camp near the northern border with Syria, and about 12,400 live in Azraq, a camp that opened at the end of April.

Full Coverage, View Syrian Refugee Crisis

What risks do children face?


Children are especially susceptible to malnutrition and diseases related to poor sanitation. Many suffer from diarrheal diseases and dehydration.

Because of the breakdown of the Syrian health system and lack of adequate immunization, there have been outbreaks of measles and even polio in Syria and among refugee children.

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 as young as 13.


What is the impact on refugee children’s education?


After three years of conflict, at least 3 million children have left education. For children in Syria, the reasons are many: schools destroyed or occupied by warring groups or displaced families, teachers absent or deceased, and insecurity.

For refugee families that don't live in camps, paying rent and other expenses can make it difficult for parents to afford books, uniforms, and tuition fees for their children. In some cases children must give up school and start work to help provide for their families. In Lebanon, the government has opened public schools to Syrian children, but language barriers, overcrowding, and the cost of transportation keep many refugee children out of school.



What is World Vision doing to meet people’s needs?


World Vision provides aid to refugees and host communities in Lebanon and Jordan.

Aid includes distributing personal and household supplies and providing clean water and sanitation. Programs for children include remedial and supplemental education so they can return to school, as well as safe places where children can play and recover from emotional scars.


Reporting from Brian Jonson and Patricia Mouamar, World Vision communications staff in Lebanon, Meg Sattler in Jordan, and Chris Huber and Kathryn Reid in the U.S.

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