General information on Syria

Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in conflict. SOS Children's Villages - with over 40 years’ experience in the country - is supporting children and young people who have lots parental care and providing emergency relief to vulnerable families.

Over 13 million Syrians need urgent assistance

A young girl who has finally found safety in an SOS Children’s Villages Interim Care Centre (photo: SOS archives)
An SOS Children’s Villages co-worker provides support to a family so that they can access healthcare and the children can go to school (photo: SOS archives).

In 2010, Syria had a population of around 22.5 million, 1.8 million of which lived in the capital Damascus.

In the decades prior to 2011, the government worked towards improving the standard of living, ensuring better access to education and health. However, the number of people living in poverty remained high. The situation was especially acute in rural areas. In addition, Syria was home to around 1.4 million refugees from Iraq, and about half a million Palestinians.

Since 2011, Syria has been the centre of international attention. The situation is tragic; an estimated 13.1 million Syrians require urgent humanitarian help. Over half of those in need are children, and a whole generation of children has not been able to go to school regularly.

Lives disrupted by violence

Life has become increasingly hard for those families who have stayed in Syria despite the war. Many have experienced violence and loss. Those who have lost their homes are now living with relatives or sheltering wherever they can. The Syrian health care system has practically collapsed: more than half of the country’s health care centres were badly damaged or destroyed.  

Since the violence started in 2011:

  • Over 400,000 people have been killed.
  • An estimated 11.7 million Syrians have had to leave their home. More than 6.1 million are internally displaced and more than 5.6 million have risked their lives to go abroad.
  • Nearly three million people live in besieged areas most affected by the violence and are therefore hard to reach with vital humanitarian aid.
An SOS co-worker providing support to a young girl who was forced to leave her family home in Aleppo. She is no longer able to go to school – instead she spends her day searching for rubbish to sell (photo: SOS archives)
Young children who have finally found safety in the care of SOS Children’s Villages (photo: SOS archives).

The war has taken a disproportionate toll on children. An estimated six million children have been affected by the war. They are trying to survive under life-threatening conditions. Family homes have been destroyed; a growing number are living on the streets and have to find a way of getting food and clean water.  

Millions of children are traumatised: they have witnessed violence and lost relatives and friends. One in three children is out of school and over 30 per cent of schools are closed.  Other activities that children took for granted, such as playing outside, are no longer possible.

Family strengthening: SOS Children's Village Syria is supporting children and their families with emergency aid such as food, water, baby food, medicine, hygiene articles, children's clothing and winter clothes. We also offer financial assistance and psychological counselling.

Protection and care for children without parental care: The SOS Children's Villages Interim Care Centres in Damascus and Tartous care for unaccompanied and separated displaced children and for those who have lost their parents due to the war. We work hard to reunite families. We have helped around 300 children to be reunited with their families. But, if this isn't possible, the children stay in our care.

Child-friendly Spaces: Children can recover from their daily stresses in the Child-friendly Spaces in Aleppo, Damascus and Tartous. We offer psychological help to traumatised children and do everything to ensure that boys and girls have some structure to their days.

Care in SOS-families: Children who have lost parental care live in SOS families in two programmes where SOS Children's Villages works in Damascus. Some children were evacuated from SOS Children's Village Aleppo in 2012 and found a stable home in Damascus. We are carefully monitoring the situation and making every effort to ensure the safety of the children and young people in our care.

Education: Child labour is a serious issue for children. Therefore SOS Children's Villages helps families so that children stop working and can go to school. We cover costs such as fees and school materials. If no schooling is available, we provide lessons wherever possible. We are also rebuilding schools and helping to improve educational offerings for children.   

Health: We offer medical examinations and provide health care in areas where it is not available.

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