You are here: The Conflict in Syria

What is happening in Syria?

The conflict in Syria dates back to March 2011.

It started out as a peaceful protest, with public demonstrations calling for democratic reforms. But the peaceful demonstrations were met by swift government opposition, eventually giving way to a brutal war.

Today, the conflict is complex and violent. It has become an internationally backed power struggle between government forces and a mix of opposition groups – including so called Islamic State. Reports of war crimes are widespread.

Right now, we're extremely concerned by a new outbreak of violence in north-eastern Syria. As warplanes drop bombs and tanks arrive at the border, families face more suffering.

We're working with our trusted partners in Syria, to support families caught up in the latest fighting in the northeast.

With support from our partners we've helped 250,000 people fleeing the unimaginable danger with essential aid, since 2012. 

After eight long years of prolonged violence, Syria’s future is as uncertain now as it was when the fighting first broke out.

But one thing remains constant; Syria’s civilians continue to pay the price. The future of millions of families still hangs in the balance.

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Key facts

Half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes
  • The war has lasted eight years, and counting
  • One in four schools have been damaged, destroyed or used for shelter
  • Over half of Syria’s hospitals are no longer functioning
  • Millions of hectares of farmland have been destroyed or abandoned
  • More than half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes
  • Over 5.6 million Syrians have become refugees*

*OCHA (United Nations Office For The Coordination Of Humanitarian Affairs), Syrian Arab Republic, About the Crisis

What’s happening in Syria now?

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

The last year has seen a dramatic shift in the power dynamics of the conflict in Syria.

With support from Russia and Iran, the Syrian government has taken back lots of opposition territory around Damascus, as well as parts of the north west and most of the south. Meanwhile Turkey launched an offensive to occupy an enclave in the north west, taking it from the Syrian Kurds.

So called Islamic State has been forced from much of the territory it once controlled. But it still remains a threat and is still capable of launching sporadic attacks across the country.

Kurdish Forces still hold significant territory in the north east, whilst other armed opposition groups still control small areas throughout the country.

Some families are starting to return home to the areas where fighting has ended. But the situation is still volatile, and the level of destruction will present extreme challenges for these families. 

How are we helping families in Syria?

We're providing shelter for families who have been forced to leave their homes due to the conflict in Syria.

Syria faces extreme heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter, so our aid is designed to reduce their vulnerablity to weather and environmental extremes.

When families are far from home, and traumatised from their experiences, having a safe place to call home is invaluable. Our aim is to help vulnerable people who are not being reached by other humanitarian organisations.

Working through local partners, ShelterBox has now supported 50,000 families affected by the conflict in Syria and Iraq since 2012. This makes it the largest, most sustained response in our history. 

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A selection of our aid items in Syria

ShelterBox white tent

ShelterBox tents

When families lose their homes, we provide tents for people who were previously sleeping under trees or staying in overcrowded collective centres.

Grey blanket

Thermal blankets

In winter we provide items like winter clothing, high thermal blankets, mattresses and sometime stoves to help combat the freezing temperatures.

mosquito net

Mosquito nets

In summer we supply items that shade families from the beating sun and protect themfrom biting insects like sand flies which transmit leishmania disease.

Working in extreme environments

ShelterBox partners delivering aid items from a truck

Our partners help us provide aid in some of the most remote and dangerous conflict zones around the world.

In Syria, we’re working with Hand in Hand for Aid and Development, ReliefAid and Bahar Organisation to get our aid to those who need it the most.

But what motivates these extraordinary individuals to risk their lives to deliver aid in such dangerous circumstances?

Meet Farid and find out what life looks like for aid workers in Syria. 

Farid’s story

A Syrian woman and her two children inside a tent

Who we’re helping

Bayda is 44-years-old and has two children – a little girl who is eight and a little boy who is six.

Life was already difficult for Bayda and her husband before the conflict started. Their income was unstable and providing for their family was a struggle. ‘Our house was all that we had...but we lost it because of the shelling on the city’.

The family managed to escape from so-called Islamic State rule and now live in a camp. Bayda told us that at first she felt like a stranger living in her own country.

We were able to provide Bayda’s family with a tent, blankets, mattresses and a solar lamp - small items that can help the family start to rebuild their lives. ‘Honestly, it saved our lives.’

How can you help?

Eight years of conflict have left millions of Syrian families homeless. You can make a difference.

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