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Syria Crisis – 9 Years On

Renewed fighting in the country’s North-West is a stark reminder that the conflict is far from over.

Nine years ago, no one expected that the conflict in Syria would create the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Syria once hosted more refugees than any other country, mostly Palestinians.

Nine years ago, no one thought that the conflict in Syria would last longer than both world wars. Wars that defined the first half of the 20th century, so to this conflict threatens to define this era.

Nine years ago, no one imagined the sheer scale of the devastation. 11 million men, women and children in need of humanitarian aid in order to survive, 5 million of whom are in urgent need of immediate life-saving help.

Over one million people injured, and close to half a million killed (this number is an estimate. Tallying the deaths became less accurate in 2014 due to lack of resources). The real death toll is likely much higher.

One in two Syrians displaced (around 12 million people), either internally or in neighbouring countries. 

The renewed fighting in Idlib, Aleppo and northern Hama, has killed 373 people, including three humanitarian workers, and has displaced over 900,000 people – one of the worst displacements in the conflict’s history - all since December 2019. 

And while no one expected, thought or imagined this could happen, here we are. 


A group of displaced Syrians sit in an underground shelter in the Taltouna village, 17kms northwest of the city of Idlib, Syria. Photo: epa/YAHYA NEMAH
 

For many suffering in the North-West this will be their fourth or fifth displacement.

Families have been desperately trying to outrun the war since the very beginning. Today they are attempting to carve out an existence in the basements of bombed out buildings, beneath flimsy tents and filthy blankets, with little access to food, water and essential health-care.

And freezing winter conditions have turned an already dire situation into an all-out humanitarian catastrophe. 

Despite all this, there is hope.

Since the beginning, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) has been leading the humanitarian response and is the largest provider of humanitarian services in the country. Through SARC, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement - of which Australian Red Cross is a part - has an unparalleled presence throughout the country, reaching over five million people every single month with life-saving assistance.

Red Cross Red Crescent teams provide life-saving health care for the sick and injured: from ambulances and mobile clinics, to medical transport and first-aid. 

SARC supply clean drinking water and sanitation to 80% of Syria’s population. Red Cross Red Crescent teams provide and repair emergency shelters for families who have been displaced and have nowhere else to go. We distribute warm clothes, blankets and mattresses for people trying to survive the harsh winter.
 

A Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer providing relief items to a woman in Tartous, Syria. Photo: SARC

We provide food and baby supplies and hygiene kits so families can live day-to-day. Our specialist trained staff and volunteers provide psychosocial support for those who have experienced trauma. 

In other parts of Syria where fighting has subsided and families are returning home, hoping to rebuild their lives, we are repairing essential infrastructure such as water pumping stations, hospitals and bakeries and are providing livelihoods support through vocational training, home gardening initiatives and agricultural support through seed, fertilizer and livestock distributions. 

Our teams are in the most hard to reach and dangerous places, negotiating access to besieged towns and cities across the country, so we can evacuate people as needed and deliver food and other essentials to people trapped in these areas. We are on the ground in camps such as Al-Hol, in north-east Syria, working to meet the needs of around 60,000 people – mostly women and children – who have been displaced by conflict.

In North-West Syria, SARC is providing essential healthcare services, and first-aid. Clean drinking water, emergency shelter, support for evacuations and emergency relief items such as food parcels, blankets and bags of four. 

Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer distributing relief items in Idlib, Syria. Photo: SARC

We are helping to rehabilitate amputees, tracing missing persons and reuniting families who have been separated by conflict.

We are also supporting Syrian refugees and the communities who host them in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. We provide livelihoods support through vocational and business training as well as cash grants that help people living in desperate poverty to pay rent, utilities and school fees. 

In these neighbouring countries we are providing healthcare and first aid to the sick and injured and psychosocial support to those who have experienced trauma. Red Cross Red Crescent also provides shelter, clean drinking water and sanitation services and distributes essential aid items to those in need. 

In Australia, our Restoring Family Links Program is providing services for families within Syria to stay in contact with family members currently living in Australia, including a number of tracing cases where we are looking for missing family members. Our Humanitarian Settlement Program is providing settlement support in two locations in Australia for newly arrived Syrian refugees. 

Syrian children stand in front of a Syrian Arab Red Crescent truck. Photo: SARC

There is no doubt that the scale, severity and complexity of the needs of the Syrian people are immense. Continued fighting in localised, urban areas, constantly shifting frontlines, new and protracted displacements, and the sustained erosion of communities’ resilience from nine years of brutal conflict has resulted in the most complex humanitarian emergency in recent history.

But with your support, we can continue to be there for those caught up in this conflict, now and well into the future, indeed for as long as we’re needed. 

 

For nine years your donations have provided life-saving support for families caught up in this crisis, but it is far from over.

Please donate today at redcross.org.au/syria

or call 1800 RED CROSS (733 276).