Ten years of conflict and displacement for millions of Syrians

31 Mar 21
Girls skipping rope in Jordan
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Bayan and her friends playing during their break, while attending the Caritas Education Program in Jordan. Photo: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia

On March 15 this year, the conflict in Syria turned 10 years old.  

The Syrian conflict has driven over 6.6 million Syrians to flee the country, and a further 6.7 million people to relocate due to conflict within the country 

According to Filippo Grandi, the UNHCR High Commissioner, “Syria is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, a continuing cause of suffering for millions which should be garnering a groundswell of support around the world.” 

Of the millions of Syrians forced to flee their homes since 2011, the majority are seeking safety as refugees in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, where they become increasingly vulnerable with each passing year of displacement 

Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees globally at more than 3.6 million. The majority  live in poverty or extreme poverty due to rising living costs and limited legal work opportunities after years of displacement.  

In Lebanon, where there are no formal refugee camps, Syrian families live in tents or cramped apartments without adequate electricity and clean water – often with ten or more people sharing one or two cramped rooms. These makeshift shelters put families at risk of heat exposure in summer, and flooding during winter and spring as the snow melts.  

Even before the nationwide protests which erupted in October 2019, many Syrians in Lebanon lived in poverty. Now as the Lebanese economy continues to freefall with the combined economic crisis, political turmoil and impacts of the Beirut blast and the pandemic, an alarming nine out of ten Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are living in extreme poverty.  

Jordan hosts over 660,000 Syrians, the majority living outside of camps, and about four out of five were living under the poverty line even before the pandemic, surviving on about US$3 a day. 

Other groups of displaced Syrians live in Egypt and Iraq, where they experience similar challenges.  

Many of those displaced are children, teenagers and young adults, who have lived most or even all of their lives under the shadow of conflict, bombings, displacement and hunger.  

Early marriage and forced child labour are increasingly common for refugee families unable to earn an adequate income to feed their families.  

Syrian refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon frequently face the undesirable options of child labour or social isolation. A large percentage of children are working as breadwinners to support their families, typically performing medial labour for cheaper rates than adults. But many young Syrians, especially girls, are confined to their homes, and around one third leave their home just once a week or less 

Most alarmingly, for many young Syrians, growing up during the conflict means that they have had little, if any, access to formal education. This has left a generation of Syrians without an education, putting them at increased disadvantage for finding work in the future, but also leaving Syria without a generation of skilled youth to support rebuilding and recovery in the future.  

In Syria, vital infrastructure including hospitals, schools, utilities, and roads are damaged or destroyed. Historic landmarks and once-busy city centres have been reduced to rubble, and many families have been living in damaged buildings without regular access to water or electricityFood insecurity is increasing and families are able to afford less and less food as the war continues 

Over the past ten years, the Caritas Confederation has supported more than one million Syrians each year with vital shelter, food, education, health, protection, livelihoods, water and sanitation.  

Along with other Caritas member organisations, we look to the future of Syrians, and are focussing on increasing self-reliance and capacity in communities.  

In Lebanon, we work with local partners, Caritas Lebanon and Catholic Relief Services, to support women and their children who are survivors or at risk of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through the Lebanon Protection Program, an initiative of Caritas Lebanon, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Australia 

The majority of women and children in the shelters have escaped the atrocities in Syria and experienced further trauma since their arrival in Lebanon. Once in the shelter, women and their families are able to heal and build new lives in a safe and supportive community.  

Families are able to participate in counselling sessions, livelihood skills training, and art, drama and music therapy sessions to promote healing. This healing process helps to stop the cycle of violence and supports participants to envision a more peaceful future. 

In Jordan, with the support of local partners, Caritas Jordan and Catholic Relief Services, we have also worked to promote the wellbeing of refugee children and their families through educationhealth care and psychosocial support.  

Through the program, children attended Kindergarten classes, which provided vital education, as well as a safe recreational space after years of displacement.  

Children already attending formal education also received learning support to empower them in the classroom and prevent dropouts.  

Syrian families are in urgent need of continued support throughout the Middle East. Our lifesaving work with our partners on the ground means that vulnerable Syrian refugee families can get the support they need during this crisis, as well as vital information to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

Donate now to support Syrian families to overcome the trauma of conflict and rebuild their lives.  

Along with your generous support, these programs are supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP).