The situation of children in Syria
After more than a decade of conflict, children continue to pay the heaviest price
Syria continues to face one of the most complex emergencies in the world. Unprecedented humanitarian needs are compounded by displacement inside the country and across its borders, extensive destruction of civilian and social services infrastructure, devastating impacts on the economy, and most importantly, the breakdown of the social fabric that stitched the country together for decades.
The situation at a glance
- 90 per cent of people in Syria live in poverty.
- 14.6 million people need humanitarian assistance.
- More than 6.5 million children in need.
- 2.4 million children aged 5-17 years are out of school.
- One in three schools are no longer used for educational purposes.
- Half of the primary health care system remains offline.
- Nearly half of the people rely on alternative and often unsafe water sources.
Today, 90 per cent of people in Syria live in poverty, most are unable to make ends meet or bring food to the table. Families have had their resources depleted, with limited employment opportunities, skyrocketing prices, and shortage of basic supplies. For most people, the current socio-economic challenges represent some of the harshest and most challenging circumstances they have faced since the beginning of the crisis 11 years ago.
In 2022, 14.6 million people need humanitarian assistance. This is the highest number of people in need ever recorded in Syria since 2011. The number of children in need - more than 6.5 million – has increased by seven per cent in the past year alone. This is largely due the ongoing conflict, continued displacements, the unprecedented economic crisis, deepening poverty, and unemployment. The COVID-19 pandemic, the hike in price of commodities triggered by the overall global economic situation and the impact of sanctions are further compounding the dire situation.
Children in Syria bear the brunt
Children in Syria continue to live a life riddled with fear. Fear of violence, loss of friends and loved ones, landmines, and explosive remnants of war. They struggle with physical and psychological injuries. If their trauma is left untreated, they are likely to be scarred for life with severe consequences on their health and future.
The lives of children in Syria have changed over the past decade. Many know nothing but the conflict, many were born into it. The future for all children hangs by a thread. Syria continues to be one of the most dangerous places for children to live in.
Across Syria, some 2.4 million children, aged 5-17 years, are out of school. They represent nearly half of the about 5.52 million school-aged children. These children fall prey to child labour, early and forced marriage, trafficking, and recruitment into the fighting. More children are likely to miss out on education and are at risk of permanently dropping out. The longer children stay out of school, the more difficult it is for them to catch up. Some children have already lost 10 years of school.
One in three schools in Syria are no longer used for educational purposes. They have been destroyed, damaged, continue to shelter displaced families or are being used for military purposes. Low numbers of rehabilitated schools further hamper children’s access to learning. Classrooms are overcrowded and tens of thousands of teachers and other education personnel have left the country.
Half of the primary health care system in Syria remains offline. Two out of five sub-districts do not have functional primary health care facilities, forcing families to either delay medical care or take long trips if they can afford it. Only, 20,000 physicians remain in Syria. This translates into 2.4 health staff for every 1,000 people, compared to the international standards of 4.5 per 1,000.
Nearly two thirds of water treatment plants, half pumping stations and one third of water towers have been damaged because of the crisis. Nearly half of the people rely on alternative and often unsafe water sources to meet or complement their water needs and at least 70 per cent of the discharged sewage is untreated.
Climate change-induced land degradation, droughts, and water shortages, particularly in northern Syria, further worsen the prevailing vulnerabilities. They impact crops and agricultural livelihoods, limiting access to food and significantly skyrocket prices of food and basic supplies. Low water levels also threaten the power supply in the country. Poor water quality similarly tends to lead to more waterborne diseases, including diarrhoea, particularly among children. When children get sick and their immune system weakens, they become more susceptible to malnutrition. In Syria, stunting and wasting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight are affecting 3.77 million children.