The conflict in Syria

What is happening in Syria and how is ShelterBox responding?

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.

Politics has failed the people of Syria. It has left them trapped and repeatedly uprooted by violence, targeted where they should feel safe.

Over 900,000 people have fled the violence since December 2019 alone. Coronavirus is also an additional threat for families fleeing the violence.

Working through our partners we’ve supported 250,000 people fleeing the unimaginable danger with essential aid.

As the conflict now enters its 10th year, millions of people remain displaced, unsure if they will ever be able to return home.

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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Families in Syria under another deadly threat

Boy in Syria with a mask on
Image credit: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Right now, coronavirus is another deadly threat looming over displaced families in Syria.

The need for humanitarian support is greater than ever for vulnerable families already living in inhumane conditions. We have been working harder than ever with our partners ReliefAid and Bahar organisation to provide families with the aid they so urgently need. Essential aid distributions are now complete.

Our tents and shelter kits can help people to keep a distance from each other. Blankets and sleeping mats can keep people warm and dry.

Water filters and cooking sets allow families to have warm meals and clean water, helping families stay as healthy as possible. Please donate today to support vulnerable families under the threat of coronavirus.

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Our partners in Syria have worked hard to get our emergency shelter to people who need it, whilst implementing measures to reduce social contact during assessments and distributions.

The team have been taking precautions against coronavirus to protect themselves and the communities we support. This includes no direct contact with people in the camps, wearing face masks and having handwashing equipment at all times.

Key facts about the conflict

  • Over 900,000 people have fled the violence in Idlib since December 2019
  • The war has been going on since 2011
  • 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

Who controls what?

The last few years have 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.

Al Jazeera map of who controls what in Syria
Map correct as of 11 Feb. Please note the situation on the ground is constantly changing.

How are we helping families in Syria?

Young Syrian child holding grey blankets with an orange hat standing in front of a ShelterBox tent

We have been 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.

More than 250,000 people have already received ShelterBox aid since we first responded to the crisis in December 2012. This makes it the largest, most sustained response in our history.

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Working in extreme environments

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 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

Humanitarian aid workers deliver aid in Syria

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.’