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10 Shocking Facts That Bring To Life the Realities of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

News Stories, 29 August 2014

1. Syria’s intensifying refugee crisis today passed a disturbing landmark of a record 3 million refugees. Reports of horrifying conditions inside the country detail cities where populations are surrounded, people going hungry and civilians being indiscriminately killed.

António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees , said the Syrian crisis "has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them." He added that the response to the Syrian crisis had been generous, "but the bitter truth is that it falls far short of what's needed."

2. As the conflict runs into its fourth year, nearly half of the Syrian population have been forced to abandon their homes. On top of the three million refugees in neighbouring countries, 6.5 million have been displaced inside Syria.

©UNHCR/Lynsey Addario

3. Over half of the three million Syrian refugees are children under the age of 18.

75% of those are under the age of 11.



4. Syrians are now the world's largest refugee population under UNHCR care, second only in number to the decades-long Palestinian crisis. Za’atari camp in Jordan is the largest refugee camp in the region and is home to around 80,000 people.

©UNHCR/Andrew Harper

5. UNHCR and other aid agencies say increasing numbers of families are arriving in an appalling state, exhausted, scared and with their savings depleted. Most have been on the run for over a year, fleeing from village to village until they have no choice but to leave the country. One Syrian woman told UNHCR she had been forced to flee 20 times before reaching safety in Lebanon.

©UNHCR/J. Kohler

6. Getting out of Syria is getting harder and harder. Many are forced to pay bribes at armed border checkpoints, or are forced to pay smugglers hefty sums of £60 per person or more to take them to safety.

©UNHCR/N. Daoud

7. More than four in five Syrian refugees are struggling to make a living in urban areas. Many are forced to adopt abandoned and unsafe shelters as a makeshift home.

©UNHCR/Lynsey Addario


8. In addition to facing worsening security conditions, Syrian refugees are reporting that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find work, food and commodity prices are rocketing and services are failing. The bare essentials are becoming increasingly harder to get hold of. In one Syrian village, the price of bread has increased tenfold since last year.

©UNHCR/A. McDonnell

9. Healthcare systems are failing and adequate medical treatment is becoming increasingly difficult to access, especially for those suffering from long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Four year old Zacharia had been receiving treatment for cancer in Syria until he and his family were forced to flee. By the time they reached safety in Lebanon, the cancer had spread to his brain.

©UNHCR/Lynsey Addario

10. UNHCR is working around the clock alongside 150 other agencies and aid groups, together with the governments of neighbouring countries, to help refugees pay rent, get food, education and medical care, as well as providing emergency relief items such as tents and mattresses.

©UNHCR/B. Diab

In the past year alone, 1.7 million refugees received food aid, 350,000 children were enrolled in school, and shelter in camps was provided for more than 400,000 refugees. Since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011, UNHCR has registered refugees faster than at any time in its history.


Donors have contributed more than £2.4 billion to successive regional response plans since 2012. However another £1.2 billion is needed by the end of this year to meet the basic needs of refugees. Most urgently, more than 2.4 million people are expected to need support in the coming weeks to prepare for winter.

©UNHCR/A. McConnell

Please. Help us help them. Donate to UNHCR's Syria appeal at:


For the latest on the Syrian refugee crisis, 'Like' the UNHCR UK Facebook page or follow @UNHCRUK on Twitter.


By Charlie Yaxley in London, United Kingdom

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