Mercy Corps has been working in Syria since 2008, delivering emergency assistance and addressing longer term needs both before and during the ongoing crisis. In 2020, our work reached over 1.6 million people across the country.
What started in 2011 as peaceful anti-government demonstrations has since resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. A decade on, millions of Syrians have been affected by violence, displacement, suffering, and loss.
The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the ten years since it began. Crowded cities have been destroyed and horrific human rights violations are widespread. Over half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million has been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and opportunity, many of them more than once.
It’s estimated that 6.7 million people are internally displaced inside Syria — more than half of them are women and children. When you also consider refugees, more than two-thirds of the population is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.
Today, COVID‑19 restrictions, the collapse of the Syrian pound, and the displacement of millions of people have led to an unprecedented number of families in Syria who are no longer able to put food on the table or make enough money to afford basic necessities. Eight in 10 people are living below the poverty line, with limited access to education and job opportunities. And a record 12.4& million people are going to sleep hungry every night — around 60 percent of the entire Syrian population.
In Northwest Syria, one of the most fragile regions of the country, basic necessities have become particularly sparse, and the delivery of critical aid across borders has become increasingly challenging. Meanwhile, brutal winter conditions and rising COVID‑19 cases threaten the survival of children and families who have already lost so much.
We are supporting Syrian communities in both Syria and neighboring countries so they can move beyond survival mode, become more self reliant, and have opportunities to earn an income. Our work in Syria is focused around the following priority areas:
- Meeting immediate needs and improving coping mechanisms
- Increasing economic opportunities
- Addressing root causes and drivers of conflict
Now, as Syrians face the threat of COVID‑19, needs on the ground are at an all-time high. We are adapting our programs so that we can continue to safely deliver emergency assistance and help communities become more self-reliant. In northwest Syria, we’ve increased the amount of soap and water we provide to each family, and provided more water tanks to improve safe water storage. We are also distributing COVID‑19 flyers in camps and educating communities on how to stay safe.
Meeting immediate needs and improving coping mechanisms
Meeting the pressing and present humanitarian needs remains vital. We are committed to finding solutions that give people more options and resources to meet their immediate needs, become more self reliant, and be more resilient to future challenges.
When families flee from violence, we work to help them find safe places to stay, and provide them with household basics like blankets and pots for cooking. For many, this is not the first time they have had to leave their home, and each time they are forced to leave things behind and rely on less to start over. Whenever possible, we purchase goods locally in order to support the local economy in Syria. Often goods are available, but people simply don’t have the money to afford them.
We also support people displaced to camps, informal settlements, and communities with water trucking, desludging and garbage collection to help them stay healthy.
In northeast Syria, we worked with local authorities and other organizations to maintain a supply of water for more than 400,000 people when their nearest water station became inaccessible due to the conflict. We continue to advocate for the full restoration and reliable operation of the water station as key in a long-term solution.
Increasing economic opportunities
Whenever possible, we work to provide people with the means to support themselves and their families. We work with farmers to increase their yields, and with young people to teach them new skills, depending on what the demand is in the areas where they live. We also support small businesses with skills training and cash grants, so they can not only survive but grow and hire more people from the local community.
Mercy Corps’ research shows that Syrians have adapted their livelihoods over the course of the conflict and that access to functioning local economies during wartime offers civilians more and better ways to cope with the challenges they face. We see a growing need for training and resources that will give Syrians choices for how they earn a living and provide for themselves.
Addressing root causes and drivers of conflict
We are partnering with communities to address immediate and underlying causes of tensions. We work with community members, civil society, and key decision makers to utilize approaches in reconciliation and civic participation. Together, they work to strengthen formal and informal processes that have previously perpetuated inequalities and negatively affected community wellbeing.
Through everything, we promote human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the restoration of social trust at the community-level. Ultimately, our goal is to contribute to the foundation for long-term peace in Syria.