Why Syria Still Matters After a Decade of War

USAID Saves Lives
Mar 12 · 7 min read

The crisis in Syria has now lasted approximately as long as World War I and II combined. But USAID is not forgetting the people at the heart of the crisis who are struggling to cope with 10 years lost to civil war.

The crisis in Syria has led to mass displacement within the country and in the region, with more than 12 million people forced to leave their homes to seek safety elsewhere. Photo credit: Delil Souleiman / AFP

It has been ten years since fighting broke out in Syria, leading to what has become one of the largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies of our time. As we reach this somber milestone, the numbers look even more grim. Syria’s prolonged conflict has left two-thirds of the country’s population in need. Take a look at the staggering statistics that are hard to compute.

Graphic: USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance

These figures have only strengthened our resolve to help Syrians in need. The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in response to this crisis, providing more than $12.2 billion in humanitarian assistance since 2012. In addition, USAID has a team of humanitarian experts deployed to lead the U.S. Government’s response to help the people of Syria

The USAID Response Team

Map: USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance

Since 2012, more than 430 USAID staff have served on our Syria humanitarian response. They’ve deployed as part of our elite Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), working from inside Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and Kuwait — or they supported the multi-country DART from our regional office in Budapest, Hungary, as well as our Washington, DC, headquarters. Meet a few of our team members.

USAID Humanitarian Assistance

Over the past decade, this dedicated team has worked together to deliver lifesaving aid to communities affected by Syria’s conflict. USAID humanitarian assistance reaches nearly 5 million people each month across all of Syria’s 14 governorates. In addition, USAID is providing emergency food assistance to more than a million refugees in neighboring countries each month. Here are just a few of the ways we work to save lives and ease suffering.

1. Food and Nutrition

After 10 years of conflict, more than half of Syria’s population does not have enough to eat. USAID supports the World Food Program and 15 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide emergency food and nutrition assistance to vulnerable people within Syria and to refugees across Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

Inside Syria, our partners provide families with monthly rations of food such as beans, bread, and oil, emergency nutritional products, and vouchers and cash transfers to redeem for food. We supply flour and yeast to bakeries, and provide ready-to-eat food to people who are newly displaced. We also help families earn an income to put food on the table. In neighboring countries, we provide food vouchers and cash transfers that Syrian refugees can redeem for food in local markets, as well as emergency nutrition assistance.

2. Health

Syria’s health system has been decimated by a decade of conflict. Despite the challenging security conditions on the ground, USAID reached five million people with emergency health programs last year, working with 10 UN and NGO partners to help keep people healthy, stave off disease, and build the capacity of Syria’s health workers.

USAID support for humanitarian health programs includes mobile medical units that are able to provide primary healthcare services to more than a thousand people every month in the most volatile regions of the country. We are also working with partners to train Syrian medical workers and support vaccination campaigns. Photo credits: WHO

USAID assistance includes dispatching mobile medical units to communities with limited health care infrastructure, providing health care services as well as medicine and supplies at health care facilities, supporting vaccination campaigns, and training Syrian medical workers. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID ramped up health assistance, expanding access to primary health care, providing equipment to intensive care units and isolation facilities, and promoting effective disease prevention and control practices.

3. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Families who have been forced from their homes by the conflict in Syria are considered some of the most at risk of illness. To help people stay healthy and stave off disease, USAID supports partners throughout Syria to provide vulnerable populations with water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance.

When fighting broke out in their hometown of Afrin, Syria, Frida’s family was forced to move from their 5-room house to a small tent with no running water or bathroom in a displacement camp. USAID worked with an NGO partner to install water tanks in Frida’s camp. We’ve also been working with partners across Syria to install water pumps, teach safe hygiene practices, and more. Photo credits: USAID partner (top and bottom left); Bulent Kili / AFP (bottom right)

Our partners distribute personal hygiene items and teach safe hygiene practices, rehabilitate latrines and washing stations in camps for displaced families, and truck in safe drinking water, provide water storage tanks and water treatment supplies, and repair and improve water networks and sanitation infrastructure both inside and outside of displacement camps.

4. Relief Supplies

USAID also continues to distribute critical relief supplies to Syrian families who have been displaced by the conflict. Last year, USAID NGO partners provided relief items, such as hygiene kits, kitchen sets, blankets, clothes, plastic sheeting for shelter, and sleeping mats, to more than 1.3 million people.

In 2017, The United States airlifted critical relief supplies to Syria. Members of the USAID DART worked with NGO partners and local authorities to make sure they were distributed to families in need. Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook / U.S. Air Force

Aid Worker Safety

On this anniversary, we would also like to acknowledge the aid workers in Syria who stand on the front lines of the conflict, facing tremendous dangers and risking their lives daily to help people who need it most. With an average of one aid worker killed every 30 days, Syria is currently one of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarians. To date, 270 aid workers have been killed since the conflict in Syria began. Many of these brave humanitarians are local staff, who often take the greatest risks to deliver assistance to their neighbors and communities.

The USAID-supported Aid Worker Security Database shows that over the past 10 years, Syria had the third most number of aid worker security incidents — including deaths, kidnappings, and injuries — in the world. Source: Aid Worker Security Database.

Working toward a peaceful, prosperous future

As we continue to respond to the urgent needs of Syrians affected by this crisis, USAID is also committed to helping Syria work towards a more peaceful and prosperous future.

Since 2011, the United States has provided more than $1.3 billion in stabilization assistance and helped communities across Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, and Al Hasakah governorates in northeast Syria recover from the scourge of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Recent examples of USAID’s programming in northeast Syria include our work to improve food security through hands-on food processing training, small business and marketing support, and cash grants which expand economic opportunities for women.

The USAID Advancing Agricultural Markets in Syria program supported processor beneficiaries to produce and sell apple jam and pickles. Photo credit: Near East Foundation

In addition, with support from USAID, the Syria Recovery Trust Fund rehabilitated seven primary health care facilities and distributed 860,000 masks to students and staff at more than 60 schools in Raqqa Governorate to support the COVID-19 response.

While the ongoing conflict has decimated earning opportunities for Syrian families, our stabilization programs support income-generating activities in the agriculture industry and beyond. For example, USAID is helping to restore and improve olive farming and horticulture saplings so farmers can revitalize the horticultural value chain in the lower Middle Euphrates River Valley.

Our stabilization assistance programs combine the speed of humanitarian aid with longer-term development goals to allow Syrians to build on our assistance. With support from the USAID Essential Services project, the Hasakah General Water Directorate rehabilitated the Himmah Water Filtration Station and Shaddadi Desalination Plant which will enhance the quality, sustainability, and supply of water to Hasakah City and Shaddadi town.

With support from the USAID Essential Services project, the General Water Directorate in Hasakah City completed the rehabilitation work of the Himmah Filtration Station. Photo credit: USAID Essential Services project

We also supported vocational training courses in Hajin, Hasakah, and Tabqa so young men and women can not only improve their own futures, but also apply their skills in fields such as heating, ventilation, home appliance maintenance, and solar panel repair that will improve their communities.

Together, USAID’s humanitarian and stabilization assistance is providing critical support to help meet urgent needs and empower the people of Syria to plan for a brighter future. But we must also recognize that no amount of assistance will solve this crisis. Only a political solution to the conflict can provide lasting peace for the people of Syria.

During this anniversary, please join us in remembering the people at the heart of this crisis. The United States is committed to continue working tirelessly to ease their suffering and to empower the people of Syria to pursue a more prosperous future.

Get more information on USAID’s Response to the Syria crisis.

Follow USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.

U.S. Agency for International Development

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