People's Stories Wellbeing

Syria: Millions of people face a daily struggle to survive
by UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs
21 Nov 2017
Entering the seventh year of the crisis, the scale, severity, and complexity of needs across Syria remain overwhelming. Some 13.1 million people in Syria require humanitarian assistance. Of these, 5.6 million people are in acute need due to a convergence of vulnerabilities resulting from displacement, exposure to hostilities, and limited access to basic goods and services.
Conflict continues to be the principal driver of humanitarian needs, with the civilian population in many parts of the country exposed to significant protection risks which threaten life, dignity and wellbeing on a daily basis.
Against the disruption caused by prolonged hostilities and extensive displacement, access to services as well as livelihood opportunities remain scarce. People’s ability to cope is therefore strained and ultimately inhibits their ability to meet basic needs.
Survival needs among the most vulnerable
Within the overall 13.1 million people in need, and notwithstanding individual vulnerabilities related to age, gender, disability and socioeconomic status, there are 5.6 million facing particularly acute needs. Amongst these, six population groups are deemed most vulnerable due to exposure to risk factors such as besiegement, hostilities, displacement and limited access to basic goods and services.
There are some 2.98 million people living in hard-to-reach areas, including 419,000 in UN-declared besieged areas. This entails a reduction of some 1.9 million people living in hard-to-reach areas over the last year.
Although there has been increased access to many areas in the northeast of Syria, the needs of people in UN-declared besieged and hard-to-reach areas continue to be exceptionally severe due to arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of movement of the civilian population; the inability to access basic commodities, services or humanitarian assistance; physical insecurity; and persistent challenges to deliver humanitarian assistance.
At the same time, hostilities continued to fuel large-scale displacement in Syria, at an average rate of 6,550 displaced each day. Those people newly displaced as well as some 750,000 people living in last resort sites face particularly acute needs due to a convergence of humanitarian risk factors.
Similar levels of exposure to protection risks and challenges in accessing basic services are also faced by overburdened communities, spontaneous returnees and people living in areas with high intensity conflict, with millions across Syria affected.
Civilians in Syria continue to face an ongoing protection crisis. Amid active hostilities in many parts of the country, humanitarian actors remain concerned by the high levels of civilian casualties that continue to be reported and point to violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL), including the prohibition on launching indiscriminate attacks and of the principles of proportionality and precaution.
Protection needs of civilians
Civilians continue to be exposed to the effects of explosive hazards in densely populated urban areas, with the Protection sector estimating that up to 8.2 million people are exposed to explosive hazards. Indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas, resulting in the destruction of civilian infrastructure, particularly affected health facilities, schools, water networks, markets and places of worship, continue.
The Syria Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM4Syria) on grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict verified 26 attacks on schools, children and/or teachers/ education, while the Health sector reported up to 107 attacks affecting health workers and facilities in the first half of 2017. Throughout the year, overall vulnerabilities continue to deepen, disproportionately affecting children.
In a context where reliance on humanitarian assistance and the adoption of harmful coping mechanisms remains high, people’s needs are exacerbated by risk factors such as the lack/loss of civil documentation, discrimination and attacks affecting humanitarian personnel, which prevent them from accessing humanitarian assistance.
Livelihoods and essential basic services
Large-scale population movements; the widespread destruction and contamination of agriculture related infrastructure and value chains such as markets and bakeries; depletion of productive assets and savings, increasing debt; and limited economic opportunities have all contributed to socioeconomic hardship and the disruption of livelihoods.
This has led to high levels of poverty across Syria, with 69 per cent of the population estimated to be living in extreme poverty. As a result, the coping capacity of many people in the most affected communities in Syria has been nearly exhausted.
Households are resorting to harmful coping strategies that disproportionately affect the most vulnerable segments of the population, specifically children, youth and adolescents.
These mechanisms include cutting back food consumption, spending savings and accumulating debt. Such coping mechanisms are not only negative and unsustainable but, once exhausted, prompt people to resort to increasingly exploitative and hazardous activities such as child labor and recruitment, early marriage, and engagement with armed groups. Increased efforts to support the ability of households and communities to withstand current and future shocks are therefore essential.

Visit the related web page

Rohingya crisis response needs to be scaled up - 60% of refugees are children
by UN News, Save the Children, UNHCR, IOM, agencies
607,000 refugees estimated to have fled to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017. UN estimate as of 28 October 2017.
Nov. 2017 (UN News, agencies)
Data collection technology employed by the United Nations refugee agency for the first stage of Rohingya family counting in Bangladesh has revealed a worrying statistic: one-third of the refugee population is vulnerable.
“In a revealing family counting exercise, UNHCR [the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] teams found that one-third of the families are vulnerable,” Duniya Aslam Khan, UNHCR spokesperson told reporters.
Ms. Khan said that “14 per cent are single mothers holding their families together with little support in harsh camp conditions. Others are struggling with serious health problems or disabilities.”
There is also a high proportion of elderly people at risk, unaccompanied and separated children – some of them taking care of younger siblings. Children and women have made up more than half of the total population.
Preliminary data from a nutrition assessment conducted last week at Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox''s Bazar shows a 7.5 per cent prevalence of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition – a rate double that seen among Rohingya child refugees in May 2017, UNICEF said.
“The Rohingya children in the camp – who have survived horrors in Myanmar''s northern Rakhine state and a dangerous journey here – are to already caught up in a catastrophe,” said UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Edouard Beigbeder. “Those with severe malnutrition are now at risk of dying from an entirely preventable and treatable cause.”
UNICEF and partners are treating over 2,000 acutely malnourished children at 15 treatment centres, with six additional centres currently being set up. The agency is also working with health partners to identify and treat diarrhoea and pneumonia, and will be conducting mass vaccination and nutrition screening campaigns this month.
“The humanitarian community needs to be able to do far more to treat and protect these extremely vulnerable children,” Mr. Beigbeder said. “For that we need far more attention to the crisis, and far more resources for the response. These children need help right now.”
In the two months since violence erupted across Rakhine State, Myanmar, on 25 August 2017, more than 600,000 people have poured across the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Almost 60 per cent of the refugees are children. Many became separated from their families or fled on their own. All have suffered tremendous loss.
UNICEF is on the ground working with the Bangladeshi authorities and partners to help meet the Rohingya refugees’ urgent needs. But the magnitude of the challenge is daunting. This is the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world today – and the world must respond.
“This crisis is stealing their childhoods,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We must not let it steal their futures at the same time.”
“The appalling dangers that children here face are plain to see. Living in the open, with food, safe water and sanitation in short supply, the risk of waterborne and other diseases is impossible to ignore”, said Mr. Beigbeder.
“It is also critical that these children, who have suffered so much in this crisis, should have access to education in a safe and nurturing environment. “This is critical not just to provide them with a much-needed sense of normalcy now, but so that they can build a future to look forward to.”
“The needs of refugees and those of the communities hosting them are increasing at a much faster pace than our capacity to respond. We need more resources and we need them now.”
820,000 Rohingya refugees already living in Bangladesh''s Cox''s Bazar, where over 607,320 have arrived since 25 August.
An estimated 450,000 Rohingya children aged 4-18 years old need education services, 270,000 of them from among the new arrivals. Nearly 17,000 children with severe acute malnutrition need inpatient and outpatient treatment, and 120,000 pregnant and nursing women need nutritious supplementary food.
There is an acute shortage of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in the refugee settlements, with an average of 100 people per latrine.
“Given the current population density and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, any outbreak of cholera or acute watery diarrhoea, which are endemic in Bangladesh, could kill thousands of people residing in temporary settlements,” Beigbeder said.
Measles has been reported among the settled population as well as new arrivals. UNICEF is working towards accelerating the routine immunization schedule, which will include the host community.
There are also reports of parents and caregivers who say they are unable to care for their children because of their vulnerable emotional and psychological state. Many adolescents have taken on additional roles as caregivers and providers, helping with distributions, collecting firewood and caring for their elderly relatives or siblings. At least 900 children are living in child-headed households.
* Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future (32 page):
27 Oct. 2017 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh this week, adding to the more than 600,000 who earlier fled violence in Myanmar, in a fast-growing humanitarian crisis that aid agencies warn risks spiralling out of control.
Men, women and children who fled what the United Nations has called a campaign of ethnic cleansing are living in overcrowded camps lacking basics such as food and water and facing escalating violence and worsening health risks.
Here are the views of some leading aid officials on the estimated 817,000 Rohingya refugees now living in the southern most district of Bangladesh and their most pressing needs:
Bob Kitchen, director of the International Rescue Committee''s (IRC) Emergency Response Unit:
"The refugees are in urgent need of emergency shelter, food, access to clean water and sanitation, healthcare, protection and mental health support. Half of pregnant women have not received medical care, two-thirds do not know where to go for help. Overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions, and the absence of safe, clean water for refugees in Cox''s Bazar, Bangladesh, means that the threat of cholera and other disease outbreaks looms large."
Mark Kaye, Save The Children''s humanitarian response team in Bangladesh:
"Many children wander the narrow muddy streets between the makeshift shelters by themselves. They live in conditions no child should live in, many suffer from illnesses such as diarrhoea and skin diseases.
There are tens of thousands of people still sleeping out in the open or under makeshift shelters, there is dirty, contaminated water everywhere, and poor nutrition and hygiene levels.
This has sparked growing concern of an outbreak of water-borne diseases. Any outbreak in large and overcrowded places like these could spread quickly and would be potentially catastrophic."
Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC):
"The needs here are enormous. People are arriving hungry, frightened and exhausted. What particularly struck me was that this is in many ways a crisis of children. There are 300,000 children living here in these camps. They are losing their childhood. There are children carrying younger ones around, children carting sacks of rice and bamboo, they are not able to simply be what they are – children."
Joanne Liu, President of Doctors Without Borders (MSF):
"The refugee settlements are incredibly precarious. They look like makeshift shelters made of mud and plastic sheeting, fixed together with bamboo and scattered across little hilltops. There are almost no services available and the vulnerability of people''s living conditions is shocking. Whole families are living under plastic sheeting in muddy and flood-prone terrain. They have very few belongings, are vulnerable to attacks from elephants, and have no access to clean water, latrines, food, or health care."
4 October 2017
Joint statement by Emergency Relief Coordinator and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock and UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake.
We leave Bangladesh moved by the stories of suffering that we heard from refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar – and all the more determined that the United Nations do all it can to assist the Government of Bangladesh in coping with this crisis.
The human tragedy unfolding in southern Bangladesh is staggering in its scale, complexity and rapidity. In just the past few weeks, well over half a million Rohingya people have crossed the border, making this the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency.
People arrive fearful, exhausted and hungry, and in desperate need of immediate help including shelter, food, clean water and sanitation, and healthcare. They bring with them terrible accounts of what they have seen and suffered -- stories of children being killed, women brutalized, and villages burned to the ground.
The Government and people of Bangladesh have demonstrated an extraordinary spirit of generosity by opening the country’s borders and leading the efforts to provide relief to the refugees. They have provided the world an inspiring example of humanity.
We were impressed in the camps and settlements we visited by the progress being made to assist the refugees. We saw the difference that the Government, the Bangladesh Armed Forces, UN agencies and our national and international NGO partners are making. But the needs are growing at a faster pace than our ability to meet them.
The refugees are living in flimsy bamboo and plastic shacks in the sprawling and densely-crowded sites that have sprung up to accommodate them. In these conditions, there is an ever-growing risk for an outbreak of disease. There are also numerous challenges for the response including limited road access to the dispersed refugee populations, a population that is still moving and a lack of land for shelter and infrastructure.
Beyond these impediments, we face an urgent need for the resources that will allow us to continue to ramp up and sustain our efforts.
Funding is urgently needed so that all refugees have access to food, shelter, water, sanitation facilities, health care and protective services. Conditions in the temporary settlements are dire. Without a significant increase in assistance, the refugees, who have suffered so much already, could face another catastrophe on top of the tragedies that caused them to flee their homes.
Today an update to the UN response plan was released, seeking $434 million which is urgently needed to scale up the relief operation in support of the refugees and the host communities where they are seeking refuge.
Unfortunately, this appalling situation is not over. People are still crossing from Myanmar into Bangladesh, fleeing for their lives and requiring immediate support. We call again on the Myanmar authorities to allow the full resumption of humanitarian action across all of Rakhine state, and will continue to advocate for conditions to be created that allow for people to safely, securely and voluntarily go home.
* Rohingya crisis: Donors pledge $344 million at UN-backed conference to support aid efforts:
12 Sep. 2017
Rohingya crisis response needs to be scaled up urgently as desperation grows in Bangladesh. (Save the Children)
Save the Children is calling on the international community to fully fund an emergency appeal to help the newly arrived Rohingya in southern Bangladesh.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past weeks following a rapid and alarming escalation of violence in Myanmar''s northern Rakhine State, including disturbing reports of hundreds of people, including children, being killed.
The situation in refugee and host communities and other informal areas where the Rohingya are taking refuge is becoming increasingly desperate, as the Government of Bangladesh and humanitarian agencies urgently work to scale up their assistance.
Save the Children''s Director of Humanitarian Policy, George Graham, said:
“In and around Cox’s Bazar, a Bangladeshi district near the Myanmar border, thousands of Rohingya families including children are sleeping out in the open or by a roadside because they don’t have anywhere else to go. Some don’t have enough food or clean drinking water, and this state of uncertainty increases the risk of children being exploited, abused or even trafficked.
“Local communities have been generous in sharing food and other basic necessities with the new arrivals, while some Rohingya have resorted to begging for food because they have no other option. There is a high level of desperation among new arrivals, many of whom have travelled long distances by foot, having fled their homes amid violence and killing. Many children are sick due to lack of food and clean water.
“There are also many hundreds of children who are unaccompanied or separated, having lost touch with their families in the chaos of fleeing their homes. This is a big concern. These children need support and help being reunited with family members.”
It is vital the international community fully funds the humanitarian response plan, which outlines the life-saving support UN agencies and international NGOs.
Graham added: “The humanitarian situation is distressing and the needs are enormous. The international community needs to recognise this, step up and urgently meet the needs of incredibly vulnerable people, especially children.
“Save the Children recognizes the significant efforts of the Government of Bangladesh, local authorities in Cox’s Bazar and host communities in supporting Rohingya refugees, however the scale of this crisis means much more help is needed.
“We urge all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to end the violence and ensure the protection of all civilians, particularly children. We call for unhindered humanitarian access to northern Rakhine State, where the situation will certainly worsen if relief organisations aren’t able to resume their operations.”
12 September 2017
UN and humanitarian partners appeal for funding to assist ‘unprecedented’ flow of refugees from Myanmar. (UN News)
The flow of desperate Rohingya fleeing across the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh is unprecedented in terms of volume and speed, United Nations humanitarian agencies said, amid calls for international support for the emergency response.
Some 400,000 people have crossed the Bangladeshi border in the last two and a half weeks, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“UN agencies and the Government were expecting as many as 100,000 more people could come across when there were already 600,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh. But I don’t think anyone expected a mass exodus like this, unprecedented in terms of value and speed,” said IOM Asia-Pacific Spokesperson Chris Lom, speaking with UN News from Cox’s Bazar, a thin stretch of beach in south-eastern Bangladesh.
Mr. Lom, who is one of the UN aid workers on the ground, said the people he spoke with are “very vulnerable, traumatized.”
There are people camped out anywhere there is space. Any spare muddy piece of land or on hillside,” he said, calling for a coordinated, emergency response that is fully funded by the international community to avert a humanitarian crisis.
About 60 per cent of the Rohingya refugees are children, according to Jean Lieby, Chief of Child Protection at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Bangladesh, who is also in Cox''s Bazar.
“The first thing you see here in the different Rohingya camps is the large number of children. You see children who have not slept for days, they are weak and hungry,” she told journalists.
Meanwhile, emergency relief supplies are being airlifted to Bangladesh today, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
“A UNHCR-chartered Boeing 777 flew in with 91 metric tonnes of aid,” spokesperson Adrian Edwards told the press. A second flight is scheduled to land later today with more aid to be delivered shortly.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has already provided some 68,800 people with high-energy biscuits, including to women-friendly spaces supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and some 77,600 people with warm meals, working through a local partner.
UN and aid partners have launched an emergency appeal for Rohingya refugees, calling for urgent funding.
Sept. 2017 (Reuters)
Over 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in northwestern Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to estimates issued by United Nations workers in Bangladesh''s border region of Cox''s Bazar, since the latest bloodshed started 12 days ago.
Numbers are difficult to establish with any certainty due to the turmoil as Rohingya escape operations by Myanmar''s military.
However, the U.N. officials have raised their estimate of the total expected refugees to 300,000, said Dipayan Bhattacharyya, who is Bangladesh spokesman for the World Food Programme.
"They are coming in nutritionally deprived, they have been cut off from a normal flow of food for possibly more than a month," he told Reuters. "They were definitely visibly hungry, traumatised."
The surge of refugees, many sick or wounded, has strained the resources of aid agencies and communities which are already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous waves of violence in Myanmar. Many have no shelter, and aid agencies are racing to provide clean water, sanitation and food.
Bhattacharyya said the refugees were now arriving by boat as well as crossing the land border at numerous points.
Another U.N. worker in the area cautioned that the estimates were not "hard science", given the chaos and lack of access to the area on the Myanmar side where the military is still conducting its ''clearance operation''.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that the violence could spiral into a "humanitarian catastrophe".
The World Food Programme is calling on donors to urgently fund basic food rations for the refugees for the coming months.


View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook