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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

The big picture

Click for a detailed map (PDF)

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

The Syrian Arab Republic has achieved considerable progress in social development. Infant and under-five mortality rates have declined. With high immunization coverage rates, the country is certified as polio-free: no polio cases have been reported since 1995. Primary education is compulsory and according to the multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS 2000), primary school net enrolment rates are high -- 98 and 99 per cent for girls and boys respectively.  Progress has been uneven, however, and geographic disparities persist. 

Although the country has been certified as polio-free, not enough attention has been paid to verticality and poor quality within the health services, nor to preventive and home-care aspects of child health. The adoption in 1999 by the Ministry of Health of the Worls Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF-supported approach for Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) was a step in the right direction. Some 200 awareness seminars were held for youth and health workers on HIV/AIDS.

In education, UNICEF advocacy led to official recognition of the problem of girl drop-outs as a priority concern. Support to the Ministry of Education in improving the quality of basic education through the Global Education Initiative (GEI) prompted the adoption of this initiative for implementation in all of the country's 12,000 primary schools over the coming 10 years. Not all experiences, however, were positive: the project for vocational training of girls and women did not address the more basic problem of drop-outs and covered only a limited number of girls.

UNICEF priorities

The High-Risk Areas (HRA) programme plays a key role in improving health and social conditions in specific rural and peri-urban communities and in influencing national development policies through its pilot activities. For example, from 1996 to 1998, immunization coverage and school enrolment rates improved in some 40 villages. The programme's school health activities prompted development of a plan for implementing such activities in all primary schools nationwide. An initiative for encouraging girl drop-outs to resume their schooling prompted the Ministry of Education to pilot a "second chance" learning project in the northern governorates. Young women and adolescent girls have been mobilized to play the main role in establishing village health information systems, thus encouraging the Ministry to initiate such systems in selected districts to improve utilization of health services.

UNICEF-supported studies on juvenile justice, child disability, early marriage and child labour played a key role in generating policy discussion and initiating concrete action by the Government, such as the review of Syrian legislation, a national conference on juvenile justice and training for all stakeholders to improve the administration of juvenile justice.

UNICEF continues its support to pilot experiences and action-oriented studies which, linked to advocacy, have proven successful in promoting child rights and policy and legislative changes. Through intersectoral working committees and policy seminars, a broad range of partnerships are mobilized, including with Syrian civil society, other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. Work will continue to support national and local authorities, communities and families in fulfilling their responsibilities to children and women, as defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF will contribute to broader national efforts to ensure:

  • The Right to Development. Although substantial progress has been made in ensuring the development of children, mainly through free and compulsory schooling, there are still some areas of concern including: quality of education; Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) and school dropout, especially among girls. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is highlighting that Syria may be one of 57 countries not achieving the goals of providing adequate education for all children by 2015.
  • The Right to Protection. Several areas of concerned in the area of child protection in Syria include child labour, children of divorced parents, abandoned children, orphans, disabled children, children in conflict with the law, children victims of abuse and violence, and discrimination of girls. At the same time, encouraging news is the co-operation with several Ministries and Civil Society Organizations working in areas related to child protection, mainly disabled children, juvenile delinquents and orphaned children. All the evidence is that orphans are adequately taken care of within the family or the private philanthropic system. There are 30 orphanages, run by civil society organizations. They provide care for 2,578 children, who receive their education at local schools. There is at least one orphanage in almost every governorate. The great scarcity and lack of reliable data continue to pose a challenge in many areas of child protection, such as sexual abuse, violence and discrimination against children, disabled children. 
  • The Right to Participation. The Arab Human Development Report identifies three areas of concern for the region: the lack of freedom, knowledge and the low status of women. These areas are directly linked with participation on a higher level within society. Syria does not stand out as better or worse than any other Arab country, but at the same time lacks in all three aspects. In 2000 Syria allowed internet use in the country. The number of users have steadily increased and have now reached a point where there are not enough internet service proivders for all the users. The Government plans to provide ISDN connections in the near future, paving the way for young people to take part in National and International information networks.



Basic Indicators

Under-5 mortality rank


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 1990


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 2012


U5MR by sex 2012, male


U5MR by sex 2012, female


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2012


Neonatal mortality rate 2012


Total population (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of births (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) 2012


GNI per capita (US$) 2012


Life expectancy at birth (years) 2012


Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*


Primary school net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2011*


Definitions and data sources [popup]

Source: The State of the World's Children

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