Humanitarian aid during the Syrian Civil War

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US non-lethal aid to Syrian opposition forces, May 2013

International humanitarian aid during the Syrian Civil War is coordinated by John Ging of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 46/182.[1] The primary framework for this coordination is the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) which appealed for USD 1.41 billion in 2013 to meet the humanitarian needs of Syrians affected by the conflict.[2] The official United Nations data on the humanitarian situation and response is available online.[3] UNOCHA also provides information to the affected population in Arabic on Facebook[4] and in English on Twitter.[5]

Humanitarian assistance to refugees and their host communities in the countries neighboring Syria is coordinated by the United Nations Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator. Within these countries the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is mandated to protect and support Syrian refugees in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. The main framework for coordinating the refugee response is the Syria Regional Response Plan (RRP).[6] Detailed and up-to-date information on the refugee situation can be accessed on the Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal,[7] which is maintained by UNHCR.

Outside the SHARP and the RRP mechanism, the International Committee of the Red Cross, in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, has been providing water, food, medical materials and other items to millions people affected by the fighting.[8]

In early 2016 UNOCHA, a damning evaluation report was released called: "Evaluation of OCHA response to the Syria crisis, March, 2016." The report identified that: "Against this backdrop OCHA has achieved some notable successes. The long drawn-out struggle to gain access to people in need is far from over, but it is much enhanced by the Security Council resolutions approved in 2014. This was directly the work of OCHA and the campaigning work of the ERC. OCHA has also struggled at times, notably in delivering on its coordination mandate that has been contested in all of the operational contexts at one time or another. The current trajectory is positive, as are attempts to unify the formerly fragmented response under the WoS initiative."

Humanitarian response

European Union

The EU provided €374 million in humanitarian assistance to the Syria crisis in 2015. In addition member states have provided another €4.5 billion. In November 2015 the EU created the €3 billion Refugee Facility for Turkey to deliver support to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey.[9]

United States

USAID and other government agencies in US delivered nearly $385 million of aid items to Syria in 2012 and 2013. On 4 February 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced another $601 million in new humanitarian funding for Syria and neighboring countries, bringing its total contribution to more than $5.1 billion in humanitarian assistance.[10] The US is providing food aid, medical supplies, emergency and basic health care, shelter materials, clean water, hygiene education and supplies, and other relief supplies.[11] Islamic Relief has stocked 30 hospitals and sent hundreds of thousands of medical and food parcels.[12]

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has allocated over £1 billion (c. $1.6 billion) in aid since 2012 to over 30 aid organisations and partners including United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organisations and the Red Cross. The aid is aimed at meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable people in Syria and of refugees in other countries in the region including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Additional funds have been allocated by the Department for International Development to help build longer-term stability in the region.[13][14][15][16]


The Norwegian government has provided 2.65 billion NOK (approx. $338.5 million) in humanitarian aid to Syria and its neighboring countries since the beginning of the unrest in 2011. [17]


Iran has been exporting between 500 and 800 tonnes of flour daily, by sea and land, to Syria.[18]


Israel began providing assistance to wounded Syrian civilians from the onset of the Syrian civil war. According to Israeli media, 700 wounded Syrians had been treated in Israeli hospitals between early 2013 to mid-2014.[19] According to rebels, this number includes 250 opposition fighters.[20] The Israel Defense Forces grants special permits for Syrians who are critically injured to enter Israel and obtain the necessary medical treatment; the IDF escorts them to and from the hospital.[21] The majority of the injured Syrians have been sent to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, where the director of the trauma center stated: "we don’t know who we’re treating, armed or not armed, wearing uniform or not wearing uniform. Because of the critical condition in which many of them arrive, we don’t question who they are. It is irrelevant. They are patients and are treated with the best measures we have in the hospital. Everyone gets the same treatment".[21] The Israel Defense Forces also set up a field hospital along the border to help treat less threatening injuries.[22][23]


It was also claimed that in addition to Syrian civilians, Israel is providing medical treatment for rebels in Syria.[24][25][26] and allowed some fighters to cross the ceasefire line in Golan Heights to seek medical treatment on the Israeli-controlled side.[27] The Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Ja'afari, also accused Israel of helping Jabhat al-Nusra and treating their wounded in the Golan Heights area.[28]


On 26 April 2013 a humanitarian convoy, inspired by Gaza Flotilla, departed from Turkey to Syria. Called Hayat (Life), it is set to deliver aid items to IDPs inside Syria and refugees in neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.[29]


In January 2016, Russia delivered 22 tonnes of humanitarian aid to several Syrian cities.[30][31]

In mid-February 2016 Syrian military transport planes with the support of Russian fighters Su-30 brought another batch of the joint Russian-Syrian humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the besieged militants city of Deir ez-Zor. The cargo parachute attached to the P-7 platform was parachuted in from a height of 4 km in the government-controlled areas of Deir ez Zor - the administrative center of the eponymous province in the north-east of the country. The total humanitarian aid weight dropped on parachute more than 50 tonnes.[32]

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization has reported that 35% of the country's hospitals are out of service and, depending upon the region, up to 70% of the health care professionals have fled. Cases of diarrhoea and hepatitis-A have increased by more than twofold since the beginning of the year. Due to the fighting the normal vaccination programs cannot be undertaken. The displaced refugees also may pose a risk to the countries to which they have fled.[33]

Financial response

Financial assistance provided in response to the Syria conflict is tracked by UNOCHA through the Financial Tracking Service (FTS). FTS is a global, real-time database which records all reported international humanitarian aid (including that for NGOs and the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement, bilateral aid, in-kind aid, and private donations). As at 18 September 2013 the top ten donors to Syria were: United States, European Commission, Kuwait, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway,[34] Canada, Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia. As at 18 September 2013, assistance provided to the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP): January - December 2013 was USD 661,049,938; with funding for the Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP): January - December 2013 at $1,278,253,343.[35]

See also

Aid given to refugees of the Syrian Civil War


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