The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 when protesters took to the streets as part of the Arab Spring protest movement sweeping across much of the Middle East and North Africa.
Two years later in March 2013, a million Syrian refugees had already fled the country, while many more were forced to flee their homes but remained inside Syria’s borders as internally displaced persons.
Today, after ten years of conflict, the situation continues to take a devastating toll on the country’s civilian population.
By the end of 2019, more than 6.6 million Syrians have fled the country. A further 6.7 million Syrians have fled their homes and are now internally displaced. In total, that is more than half of Syria’s pre-conflict population. Across the country, entire cities are in ruins, and for most Syrian refugees, returning home in a safe and dignified manner remains a distant dream.
Much of the country remains an active war zone and shifting front lines can and do trigger periodic waves of further displacement.
The humanitarian implications of ten years of conflict and division in Syria are nothing short of enormous. Homes have been destroyed and livelihoods lost. More than 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The vast majority of Syrian refugees – 5.5 million people - are hosted in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and the sheer number of arrivals and the protracted nature of their displacement means that host communities in these countries are also under considerable strain.
Conditions for displaced Syrians in the region are often harsh, whether they live in urban areas or in camps. Displacement camps suffer from overcrowding and limited access to livelihoods and other resources, as they are typically located in remote and extraordinarily harsh desert areas.
Refugees living in urban areas face their own set of difficulties. Despite theoretically having access to the resources of the city, they are in many cases unable to work legally and therefore at risk of exploitation, alongside social discrimination, and acute poverty.
The negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world tend to hit the most vulnerable people the hardest. This is also true for displaced Syrians, who continue to suffer from the health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic.
Movement restrictions and the associated economic slowdowns seen around the world mean that displaced Syrians have been less able to find employment and support themselves since the onset of the pandemic.
DRC is one of the largest NGOs operating in Syria today, and has been present in the country since 2008. In 2012, the response to the growing crisis was scaled up, and today DRC works to meet the urgent needs of conflict-affected people through the provision of integrated and principled humanitarian assistance, services, and advocacy.
DRC works to address the needs of individuals and communities in different stages of the displacement cycle, whether they are recently displaced and in acute need of protection, living in protracted displacement and in need of consistent support, or in the initial stages of post-conflict recovery and seeking ways to rebuild their lives.
“I have worked in the humanitarian sector in more than 20 countries, and I have never seen anything like this.” DRC’s country director in Syria, Victor Velasco, reflects on the destruction that a decade of conflict has brought upon the country.
After fleeing conflict-ridden Syria and finding a home in Turkey, these refugees are building a better future for their families.
After rebuilding her life as a refugee in Turkey, Zahra fears having to start from scratch once again.
Building a new life after displacement is hard. Aisha tells how her beloved bees helped her stand on her feet again, and how she tries to be a female role model for her daughters.
The idea feels magnificently ordinary – even mundane. It is something that we see and experience almost every day. But for women living inside refugee camps, it is a reminder of what life back home used to be like.
After leaving behind everything in Syria, Syrian refugees tell stories of their fight to survival in Turkey.
Syrians in Denmark work hard to build ‘temporary’ lives, not sure when and if they would be sent home.