• Over 85% of Syrians in northern Syria surveyed by the IRC are in debt; more than 90% can't repay it. 60% buy food on credit.

  • Nearly 50% cite selling products (including animal products, crops, agricultural products, fish, livestock, fuel gas) as their primary income source.

  • Almost 60% identify food or money for food as their household's greatest unmet need.

  • 40% observe child labor in local markets, attributing it mainly to poverty and the need for family contributions to work.

As the conflict in Syria enters its 14th year, humanitarian needs have escalated to unprecedented levels while available funding declines. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls for increased funding for humanitarian and recovery efforts, alongside sustained and unfettered access to aid, to ensure that vital support reaches all populations in need.

Today, nearly three-quarters of Syria's population, which translates to more than 16.5 million people, require some form of humanitarian assistance. This marks the highest number of individuals in need since the crisis began in 2011. Representing a 9% increase from 2023, and a shocking 25% rise since 2021. As a result of the conflict, much of the country's infrastructure is now decimated, basic services are often non-existent, and the economy is in freefall with upwards of 90% of Syrians living in poverty.

Northern Syria, where the IRC works, is experiencing the highest levels of violence since 2020. Late last year, the northwest of the country witnessed attacks that led to the displacement of over 120,000 individuals, with some IRC clients having now been displaced more than 20 times since the onset of the crisis. Elsewhere, in the northeast, attacks this year have resulted in the partial or complete shutdown of hundreds of crucial civilian facilities, such as water stations, health centers, schools, and other vital infrastructure, leaving more than one million people without access to regular electricity.

To understand the depth and deterioration of the crisis, the IRC conducted its annual Multi-Sector Needs Assessment that surveyed almost 3,000 people across five northern governorates. Participants included internally displaced Syrians, those who have now returned to their hometowns, and communities hosting displaced families. In a sign that the failing economy is exacerbating humanitarian needs, nearly half of the respondents rely on selling whatever they have at home from animal products, crops, agricultural products, fish, livestock, to fuel or gas to generate income. A large majority of those surveyed are now in debt, having borrowed money in order to buy basic necessities, pay for services such as healthcare, or cover their rent. Furthermore, 50% of the surveyed households said they now relied on credit or debt to buy their food, and almost all indicated they are now struggling to make repayments.

Tanya Evans, IRC’s Country Director for Syria says, “Now in the 14th year, the cumulative toll on the Syrian people is more devastating than ever. Nearly two-thirds of the Syrians we talked to told us that finding enough food is their biggest worry. With many struggling due to the high cost of food and a lack of money to buy what they need. We have observed an increase of over 25% in poor food-consumption scores in the past year. Which simply put, means that we are seeing a significant increase in the number of Syrian households who are eating less in terms of frequency of meals, while at the same time they struggle to ensure the meals they do eat are nutritious and diverse. Our research revealed high malnutrition rates -virtually nonexistent prior to the conflict- among children under five years old, with nearly 20% of respondents identifying it as a risk their children face during developmental stages. 

“As the economic situation continues to worsen and food prices rise, Syrians are now having to make unbearable choices. Parents are adopting negative coping mechanisms, including sending their children to work instead of school. Four out of ten individuals observed child labor in local markets and the primary reasons cited for families resorting to child labor are predominantly high levels of poverty, followed by the necessity for all family members to work to meet daily needs.”

As Syrians make difficult choices about how they spend what little money they have, humanitarian agencies are also being forced to make impossible decisions regarding the services we should prioritize. The funding shortfall for Syria's Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has been steadily increasing for several years. The HRP for 2023 received less than 40% of the necessary funds, and projections for 2024 suggest that even more severe cuts are to come. This funding shortfall is already directly impacting the ability of organizations like the IRC to provide essential services such as health care, treatment for communicable diseases, and services for pregnant and lactating women, thereby exacerbating the suffering of those in need.

“Compounding the crisis, last year's catastrophic earthquakes that struck Turkiye and Syria in February not only devastated infrastructure but also pushed even more individuals in the northwest of Syria into a cycle of poverty and displacement. More than one year on, people inside Syria are still struggling to rebuild and are all too aware of the dwindling resources available to support them. Efforts to bring an end to the crisis are stalling, and with waning focus on the Syrian crisis at international levels, civilians are continuing to pay the ultimate price. As the crisis enters its fourteenth year, the international community must act now, and with renewed urgency, to provide sustained funding that both addresses rising humanitarian needs, while also supporting the recovery of communities who are running out of ways to cope.” Evans added.


Notes to editors:

The IRC has been working in Syria since 2012, responding to needs in northwest and northeast Syria. The IRC supports early childhood development and provides counseling and protection services for women and children, particularly for survivors of violence. We support health facilities and mobile health teams with critical trauma services and primary, reproductive and mental health services. Our teams promote economic recovery with job training, apprenticeships and small business support.  

We also respond to shocks and emergencies in Syria, including the February 2023 earthquake. We do so both directly and through partners to ensure lifesaving services and supplies—including cash assistance, critically needed medicine and other items—reach those in need as quickly as possible. In fiscal year 2023, the IRC and our partners reached over 1.9 million clients in Syria (63% female, 37% male). We also support Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. Learn more about the IRC’s Syria response.