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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations



After a decade of war, the Syria crisis is characterised by unparalleled suffering and humanitarian needs. Some 6.7 million Syrians are internally displaced, and another 5.6 million are refugees abroad.

Despite a ceasefire agreed in 2020, hostilities continue across the country. Syria’s low COVID-19 testing and vaccination capacity is worrying – it adds a layer to the already struggling health system and economic depression. The EU continues to be a major humanitarian donor for Syrians in need across the region.

What are the needs?

According to the latest humanitarian needs overview, 14 million people require assistance inside Syria. Nearly 60 % of the population faces food shortages, according to the World Food Programme.

In north-west Syria, most of the 2.7 million displaced have fled multiple times and 3.5 million people need humanitarian assistance. The UN’s Security Council resolution on cross-border assistance from Turkey offers them a vital lifeline.

In the north-east, close to 650,000 people are displaced, of which 130,000 live across 10 camps. In the areas controlled by the government, over 3 million people remain displaced, and 8.1 million people need aid.

Syria suffers a deteriorating economy, widespread destruction, and loss of life and human capital. As a result, the population is struggling to earn an income or access basic goods and services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened living conditions for vulnerable families, resulting in an additional 1.4 million food-insecure people.

The water of the Euphrates River has declined to its lowest level. Due to this unprecedented situation, Syria is experiencing a water crisis and drought, especially in the north-east since summer 2021. Some 5 million people are increasingly facing shortages of water, food and electricity. This has also negatively affected agricultural production.

The Syria crisis remains a particularly complex protection crisis. Continued violations of international humanitarian law and lack of protection are reported at a community level.

Humanitarian aid is critical, but restrictions and bureaucratic impediments hamper the work of organisations.


How are we helping?

The EU and its Member States are the leading donors of international aid to those affected by the conflict in Syria. Since the start of the crisis in 2011, the EU has mobilised more than €24.9 billion to support the most vulnerable Syrians inside the country and across the region.

The EU has organised, over 5 consecutive years, from 2017 to 2021, conferences supporting the future of Syria and the region. These have been the main pledging events for the Syria crisis.

In 2021, the European Commission mobilised over €141 million in humanitarian aid to provide vital assistance to millions of people inside Syria.

Adding to its initial allocation of €130 million, the Commission provided over €10 million to support people suffering from the severe water crisis and drought in northern Syria. The funding also helps support people throughout the winter.

An additional €1 million was allocated for COVID-19 response.

In light of numerous attacks on civilians, hospitals and other civilian infrastructures over the past decade, the EU has continuously urged all parties in the conflict to allow unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to people in need. It has also repeatedly called for the respect of international humanitarian law.

Inside Syria, EU humanitarian assistance is channelled through some 40 humanitarian partners working countrywide where needs are the most acute. They are providing Syrians with (i) health care; (ii) food assistance including cash transfers; (iii) shelter; (iv) water, sanitation and hygiene services; (v) psychosocial support; (vi) essential household items; (vii) education; and (viii) protection (including actions to prevent sexual and gender-based violence and provide support to survivors, child protection and humanitarian mine action).

The EU’s humanitarian interventions focus primarily on addressing life-threatening situations while trying also to promote early recovery by improving access to basic services for those in desperate need.

Partners provide emergency aid tailored to the needs of vulnerable people and try to protect them from further harm. They attempt to reach Syrians across the country, in underserved or newly accessible regions and in areas where people are at risk of being repeatedly displaced. The aim is also to avoid a further deterioration of their situation.

With needs around the country greater than ever, the EU also supports the UN’s humanitarian air services. Domestic flights are facilitating the delivery of aid and the transport of humanitarian staff to areas with limited access and important needs.

Humanitarian organisations operate in very challenging circumstances, obstructed by insecurity and continued access constraints. They strictly adhere to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

The EU also funds humanitarian aid in countries within the region – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – which combined host more than 5.6 million registered Syrian refugees.

Last updated: 21/12/2021
Picture:© CARE, 2020

Facts & figures

14 million people in need in 2022.

More than 6.7 million internally displaced.

Over 5.6 million registered refugees, including: 

  • 3.7 million in Turkey
  • 855,000 in Lebanon
  • 666,000 in Jordan
  • 247,000 in Iraq
  • 132,000 in Egypt
    (UNOCHA, UNHCR April, May & June 2021)

Total assistance by the EU and its Member States to the Syria crisis:
more than €24.9 billion since 2011

EU humanitarian funding inside Syria:
over €141 million in 2021