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Shattered lives

Syria Crisis Watch

Across Syria, the International Rescue Committee provides lifesaving support to over 1 million people—half of them children—who are struggling to survive a brutal war.

Syrian civilians terrified as attacks begin in Idlib

  • The IRC is calling on the Syrian government, Russia and its allies to halt attacks in Idlib and agree to a diplomatic solution to prevent hundreds of thousands of civilians becoming caught up in further fighting.

  • As many as 800,000 people may flee towards the Turkish border to escape bombardment in the last remaining area under opposition control.

  • IRC teams are ready to respond with two mobile health clinics and provide special care for children, women and girls. We're also preparing to provide cash support to displaced communities to help them pay for food and other essentials.

  • "Many civilians in Idlib have survived intense bombardment or fighting elsewhere in Syria and are rightly terrified about what they may now face," said Lorraine Bramwell, the IRC's Syria country director.

Read our latest statement
Country facts
  • Population: 22.8 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 12.3 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 134 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Syria: 2012
  • People assisted: over 1 million

Syria crisis briefing

Since 2011, the war in Syria has taken well over 400,000 lives and left 13.1 million people in need of aid, including 5.6 million with acute needs. Over two-thirds of Syrians live in extreme poverty. Through programs coordinated by our teams based in Iraq and Jordan, the IRC provides emergency and long-term services to displaced families and Syrians who have stayed in their homes.

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What caused the current crisis in Syria?

In 2011, anti-government protests broke out across Syria. The government used force to stop protesters, prompting many opposition groups to take up arms.

Syrian society has been torn apart by brutal violence, creating the largest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

On average, 6,000 families are forced to leave their homes each day due to fighting. Millions have fled to neighbouring countries. As conditions worsen, many Syrians choose to risk their lives in search of safety and opportunity in Europe. 

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Syria?

Inside Syria, ongoing fighting has killed civilians and decimated infrastructure and economic markets. Amid widespread violence, 1.7 million Syrian children have left school. Attacks on homes, schools and hospitals—including IRC-supported facilities—continue to rise.

IRC distributes emergency supplies in Syria
The IRC distributes blankets, plastic sheeting, medicine and other essential items to people in Syria. Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

Over 6.3 million people are displaced and 13.5 million need emergency assistance. Meanwhile, 4.9 million Syrians live in areas that are difficult or impossible for aid workers to reach.

Women and children are particularly vulnerable to a range of safety issues including sexual violence, child labour, and physical and mental trauma.   

How does the IRC help in Syria?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

We first began assisting Syrians in 2012, providing emergency relief and humanitarian aid to those uprooted by war.In 2016, over 1,000 IRC workers helped more than 1 million Syrians inside their country. This included 971,000 people treated in around 50 IRC supported clinics and mobile health teams, helping 24,000 women and girls–many survivors of assault and abuse–find safety and support, and providing an education and support to over 10,000 children and parents. The IRC also supported 13,500 Syrians to get vital documents to move more freely and access services, as well as provided thousands of Syrians with job training and cash or vouchers to help them buy food and other essential items for their families.   

Our programmes are led by cross-border teams in Iraq, Turkey and Jordan—each providing support that is tailored to the communities they serve. As violence continues to escalate in the region, the IRC is focusing our efforts by:

  • partnering with local and diaspora groups to ensure the uninterrupted flow of medicines, supplies, and equipment
  • providing emergency cash assistance to help displaced families meet their immediate needs
  • operating clinics and mobile teams to provide lifesaving trauma services, primary and reproductive care, dialysis and essential drugs
  • integrating mental health services into our primary care work;
  • running classes, counselling and protection services for thousands of children in camps and communities;
  • creating safe spaces for women and girls that offer services for survivors of violence, as well as counselling and skills training;
  • building households’ economic stability with job training, apprenticeships, and small business support.


What still needs to be done?

As the conflict continues and available resources inside Syria dry up, the IRC’s work is more critical than ever. We pledge to put the needs of those most affected by the crisis at the forefront of our efforts and to achieve measurable improvements in safety, health and economic well-being. Here’s a closer look at some of the work we will be doing over the next few years to achieve our goals.

We will continue to support uprooted Syrians and host communities, with a particular focus on women and children. The IRC is also committed to reaching the most vulnerable and hard-to-access areas throughout the country. We will continue to expand our programmes based on where there is the greatest need.

IRC teams and partners currently reach 1.3 million people in Syria and neighbouring countries with lifesaving support. In the next several years, we’ll focus on the following areas: 


People should be safe in their homes and communities, and receive support when they experience harm. Women and children, in particular, should be safe in their schools, homes and workplaces.

As a global leader in safety, the IRC will continue to identify safety risks in camps and rural and urban communities. We help survivors of abuse access safe spaces or take services to them via mobile health teams, and mobile outreach to women and girls. 

We monitor risks and rights violations at the home and in the communities and help those who’ve lost civil documents safely restore papers so they can move more freely and access services. We put particular emphasis on the needs of female-headed households. 

We will also train teachers to help students who have experienced physical or emotional trauma, and support caregivers with skills to parent safely under stress and conflict. 


People should be protected from illness and receive medical treatment when they need it. The IRC will continue to work with local healthcare providers to grow our network of fixed and mobile health services. We will continue to save lives, ensure safe pregnancy and delivery, and provide essential primary care and chronic disease treatment in the toughest conditions  

Economic wellbeing

People should have the means to meet basic needs; they should have opportunities to earn an income and build their assets. The IRC aims to ensure that people can access food, water and shelter without falling into debt.

With a commitment to gender equality, we will also help women and girls achieve the same success as men and boys.

As in all our efforts, the IRC will strive to reach more people more quickly, increase the effectiveness of our work, listen to the concerns of those affected by our work, and hold ourselves accountable for results.


Download the IRC Syria strategy action plan to learn more about our programme priorities until 2020.

Our impact

In 2015, the IRC and our partner organisations in Syria provided:

1.4 Million

displaced people with emergency and humanitarian aid.

IRC staff and volunteers are providing medical care, cash assistance, education and vital counseling and support for survivors of violence.

Explore our work on safety.

patients with primary, reproductive and trauma care in clinics and through our mobile medical teams.

In our health clinics, we are delivering primary and reproductive health care, trauma services and dialysis to thousands of people.

Explore our health work.

children and youth with safe classrooms and education opportunities

We have opened schools in several displacement camps in Idleb, Syria where we provide specialised services for disabled children.

Explore our education work.

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