More than four years of civil war have devastated Syria: nearly four million Syrians have fled the country, seeking refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq, and an additional 7.6 million people are displaced inside Syria.
UN humanitarian agencies face a number of significant challenges to their work, including heavy fighting and road closures, sieges on civilian neighborhoods, bureaucratic delays imposed by the Syrian government, the rise of extremist groups such as ISIS, significant gaps in funding, and other obstacles have made humanitarian efforts within Syria itself logistically difficult and dangerous. Nevertheless, the UN is playing a leading role in international efforts to ease the suffering of civilians both inside Syria and the wider region.
- The World Food Program (WFP), is delivering lifesaving food assistance to more than four million people in Syria every month, as well as 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
- In preparation for the cold winter months this year, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) helped insulate shelters and provided thermal blankets, winter clothing, heaters, and fuel to hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians throughout the region.
- The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), for its part, has been helping to ensure access to safe drinking water for 15.6 million Syrians, provide educational support and recreational activities for displaced children, and vaccinate millions of children throughout the region in the wake of a polio outbreak in Syria.
- The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides a variety of relief and social services to Palestinian refugees, is currently providing shelter, food, sanitation, health care, and education to more than 480,000 Palestinians living in Syria, more than half of whom have been displaced by the current conflict.
However, access to populations in need continues to be a serious challenge, and late last year, the UN Security Council passed two resolutions authorizing humanitarian organizations to carry out cross-border aid deliveries into rebel-held areas without prior approval from the Syrian government.
As of May 10, 2015, UN humanitarian agencies and their partners have made 117 aid shipments under the auspices of those resolutions, providing food assistance for nearly 2.4 million people, water and sanitation supplies for 847,000 people, and medical supplies to benefit 628,000 Syrians.