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Map of Syria
UNICEF photo: A young girl smiles for the camera against a backdrop of destroyed buildings © UNICEF Syria/2017/KhudrAl-Issa Rowaidah, 5, after receiving her polio vaccination in Sakhour neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo.

Syrian Arab Republic

In 2018, UNICEF and partners plan for:
1.7 million

children and pregnant and lactating women screened for acute malnutrition

13.5 million

people have sustained access to safe drinking water

2.2 million

children aged 5 to 17 enrolled in formal general education

2018 Requirements: US$335,341,920

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Total people in need: 13.1 million
Total children (<18) in need: 5.3 million

Total people to be reached in 2018: 8.3 million1
Total children to be reached in 2018: 5.2 million

Seven years into the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, the scale, severity and complexity of needs across the country remain overwhelming. Some 13.1 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 6.1 million internally displaced persons.2 Children—including those who are unaccompanied, separated or living with older/disabled caregivers—are particularly vulnerable. Of the estimated 8.35 million children living in the Syrian Arab Republic, 5.3 million require humanitarian assistance, 1.2 million live in hard-to-reach areas and 170,000 live in besieged areas.3 More than 3 million children under 5 years require nutrition support, including the nearly 20,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).4 The suffering of children in besieged areas remains a key concern, including with the rapid deterioration of the nutrition situation in Eastern Ghouta. Grave child rights violations continue, with countless children killed and injured by the persistent use of explosive weapons in civilian areas and the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, as well as torture, detention, abduction, sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access, particularly to children living in United Nations-declared besieged areas. Access to basic social services has dramatically declined, with 1.75 million children aged 5 to 17 out of school and 1.35 million at risk of dropping out.5 National routine immunization coverage has declined from 90 per cent in 2010 to 70 per cent in 2017,6 triggering several outbreaks. In 2017, there were a record 70 vaccine-derived polio virus cases7 reported among children. Some 14.6 million people require access to safe water, including 7.6 million in acute humanitarian need, in part due to heavy infrastructure damage.8 The delivery of humanitarian assistance remains extremely difficult due to active conflict, insecurity, restriction of movement and the imposition of deliberate constraints, including burdensome administrative procedures.

Humanitarian strategy

2018 programme targets


  • 2.3 million children and pregnant and lactating women received micronutrients
  • 1.7 million children and pregnant and lactating women screened for acute malnutrition
  • 8,200 children treated for SAM


  • 2.9 million children under 5 vaccinated against polio
  • 2.1 million children and women of child-bearing age supported through primary health care consultations


  • 13.5 million people have sustained access to safe drinking water
  • 1.5 million people benefitted from access to improved life-saving/emergency WASH facilities and services

Child protection

  • 2.5 million people reached with mine-risk education
  • 380,000 people provided with structured and sustained psychosocial support and parenting programmes


  • 2.2 million children aged 5 to 17 enrolled in formal general education
  • 323,500 children aged 5 to 17 enrolled in non-formal education

Non-food items

  • 812,000 children protected from extreme weather with clothing kits and blankets and through direct distribution and e-vouchers

Early recovery and livelihoods

  • 18,000 families receiving regular cash transfers
  • 450,000 adolescents aged 10 to 17 and youth aged 18 to 24 involved in or leading civic engagement initiatives
  • 2,000 youth aged 15 to 24 implementing entrepreneurship initiatives, including through seed funding

In 2018, the UNICEF Whole of Syria strategy will target populations with the greatest humanitarian need. UNICEF will continue to lead the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education and nutrition sectors and the child protection sub-sector and will work in close collaboration with implementing partners inside the Syrian Arab Republic and across borders.9 Immediate life-saving humanitarian support will be provided alongside longer-term resilience programming through cross-line convoys, cross-border interventions and regular programme delivery in accessible areas. UNICEF WASH support will include increasing access to safe water, rehabilitating WASH facilities, restoring critical WASH infrastructure and promoting good hygiene practices to reduce the risk of WASH-related morbidity. The health programme will facilitate the provision of child and maternal health care and expand quality immunization services. UNICEF will advocate for the vaccination of children in hard-to-reach and besieged areas and the restoration of immunization services in newly accessible areas and in camps. Communication for Development interventions will be strengthened to support routine immunization, particularly to prevent polio outbreaks. The nutrition programme will focus on the prevention of chronic malnutrition (stunting), the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, the prevention of micronutrient deficiency among mothers and children under 5, and SAM treatment. The education response will address disparities among out-of-school children by strengthening alternative learning opportunities using Curriculum B10 and self-learning programmes. Equitable access to early learning for pre-primary schoolchildren will also be scaled up. UNICEF will expand teacher development, support for inclusive education and life-skills and citizenship education. Technical support will be extended to the Back to Learning initiative, as well as to address violence against children, child marriage and child labour. UNICEF will continue to provide psychosocial support and awareness-raising education on the dangers of unexploded remnants of war. Building on the previous years’ investment in case management systems, UNICEF will expand access to and ensure the provision of specialized services for high-risk child protection cases. The United Nations will continue to receive UNICEF support to monitor and report on grave child rights violations. Adolescents and youth will be supported with cross-sectoral services, skills and opportunities, focusing on life-skills, technical and vocational education and entrepreneurship training. UNICEF will also support Sport for Development and social and civic engagement initiatives. Social protection schemes will combine regular cash distribution with case management, primarily targeting families of children with disabilities. Seasonal clothes and blankets will be provided to the most vulnerable children through direct distribution and e-vouchers.

Results from 2017

As of 31 October 2017, UNICEF had US$173.06 million available against the US$354.6 million appeal (49 per cent funded).11 In 2017, UNICEF and partners reached 5.4 million people through the rehabilitation and improvement of water and sanitation services and 1.1 million people through emergency water trucking and the maintenance of WASH facilities. Across the country, nearly 14.6 million people gained regular access to safe water through the provision of water disinfectants.12 In response to the vaccine-derived polio outbreak, UNICEF supported immunization campaigns in Deir-ez-Zor, Al-Hasakeh and Ar-Raqqa, reaching nearly 260,000 children under 5 (79 per cent of the target). Routine vaccination reached more than 287,000 children under 1 and almost 2.5 million children and pregnant and lactating mothers benefitted from primary health care consultations. More than 1.1 million people received health supplies, including people in hard-to-reach locations. UNICEF provided more than 1.7 million children and pregnant and lactating women with nutrition supplies and services, including SAM treatment and counselling on infant and young child feeding. This included more than 581,000 people in hard-to-reach locations. With UNICEF support, more than 950,000 children gained access to formal education, and over 60,000 gained access to non-formal education opportunities. UNICEF investments in improving learning environments increased children's access to education. Some 224,000 children benefitted from school rehabilitation and more than 331,000 children benefitted from improved WASH facilities that are more gender sensitive and inclusive of children with disabilities. To protect against the dangers of explosive remnants of war, some 1.7 million children received mine-risk education, and nearly 283,000 children benefitted from sustained and structured psychosocial support. UNICEF-supported life-skills and citizenship education programmes and community-based vocational training benefitted nearly 257,000 adolescents and youth, including more than 55,000 located in hard-to-reach areas. In addition, some 487,000 of the most vulnerable children,13 including displaced children and children with disabilities, received non-food items, including seasonal clothes, and more than 6,100 families accessed regular cash assistance to meet their children’s basic needs. UNICEF results were achieved through modalities such as cross-line convoys, cross-border interventions and regular programme delivery in accessible areas.

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Funding requirements

As part of the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for the Syrian Arab Republic, UNICEF is requesting US$335,341,920 to meet the needs of children and families and fulfil children's rights. This funding requirement covers programming delivered from within the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as cross-border assistance delivered as part of the Whole of Syria approach. UNICEF programmes are planned for nationwide reach, targeting populations in the areas with the most acute needs, and the population groups most in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.14

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1 This target does not include the 13.5 million people that UNICEF is targeting with water disinfectants.
2 Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, '2018 Syrian Humanitarian Needs Overview', OCHA, 2017.
3 Calculation based on latest besieged/hard-to-reach locations list from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and applied percentage of children from the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview dataset.
4 Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, '2018 Syrian Humanitarian Needs Overview', OCHA, 2017.
5 Ibid.
6 There are multiple reasons for the dramatic coverage decrease, including difficulty accessing the population, lack of human resources, logistics challenges, poor cold chain systems and vaccine stock-outs. Source: UNICEF 2018 health (Expanded Programme on Immunization) project sheet.
7 World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund, 'Syria cVDPV2 outbreak Situation Report # 26', WHO and UNICEF, 12 December 2017.
8 Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, '2018 Syrian Humanitarian Needs Overview', OCHA, 2017.
9 As sector lead in WASH, education and nutrition, and sub-sector lead in child protection, UNICEF continues to enhance coordination and information management capacity at the Whole of Syria and hub level, as well as sub-national levels. It further provides guidance to all sector partners for the implementation of the strategic priorities and action plans as per the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan. UNICEF also provides capacity building for and works in close coordination with its implementing partners inside the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as through cross-border interventions from Amman, Jordan, and Gaziantep, Turkey.
10 Curriculum B is a condensed basic education curriculum for accelerated learning for children who have missed classes due to repeated displacement and to help them catch up and ultimately reintegrate into formal schools.
11 Available funds include US$110.9 million raised against the current appeal and US$62.1 million carried forward from the previous year.
12 The provision of water disinfectants is a recurring intervention that requires continuous support to reach vulnerable populations on an ongoing basis. A large proportion of the population is reached continuously. Therefore, although UNICEF had only received 64 per cent of funding for WASH by 15 November, the target for this indicator was surpassed.
13 The non-food item distribution includes the number of beneficiaries who received e-vouchers (52,000 children).
14 The six population groups that are generally most in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance in the Syrian Arab Republic include: people living in United Nations-declared besieged areas; internally displaced persons in last resort camps, informal settlements, transit centres and collective centres; newly displaced persons; spontaneous/self-organized returnees; overburdened communities; and areas of high conflict intensity.