In March of 2011, peaceful protests in Syria were met with violent government retaliation, launching the country into a civil war that is now heading into its eighth year. Since then, an estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes, seeking refuge in neighboring countries or within Syria’s borders. Those who stay in their homeland face the threat of violence and dwindling resources, while those who leave struggle with restrictive laws, dangerous border crossings, finding work and shelter, and keeping their families together and safe.
Cultural tensions have spiked in the countries that are most overwhelmed by refugees. While some stay near the Syrian border, many try to reach Europe by making the dangerous and often fatal trip across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece, where resources are strained and passage to the west is restricted. Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are barred from legal work and struggle to find any way to support their families. Children, especially, face a grim future – in need of psychosocial support, many have been out of school for months or years and often have no choice but to work to help feed their families. For some, this life is all they have known.
Here are some facts about the Syrian refugee crisis:
- Of the 5.5 million worldwide, 5.3 million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
- Nearly half, or about 2.6 million, Syrian refugees are children.
- 6.1 million people are displaced within Syria itself.
- More than 500,000 people have died since the war began.
- 8 percent of refugees live in informal refugee settlements, where shelter is often inadequate, clean water is scarce and sanitation is poor.
- An estimated 35 percent of those living in refugee camps and 70 percent of those living in Syria rely on unsafe water sources.
- Overall, an estimated 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.