Syrian Refugee Crisis: What Church Leaders Need To Know

SyriaCrisisStatsSyria crisis fast facts

  • 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance
  • At least 6.6 million have been displaced within Syria, and 4.6 million have fled as refugees in neighboring countries.
  • Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; about 10 percent of the refugees have fled to Europe.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. See new photo slideshow.
  • A fragile ceasefire began on Feb. 26, allowing humanitarian aid access to civilians who had been cut off for months. Refugees react to news of the ceasefire.
  • Learn more in this free ebook by World Vision President, Rich Stearns: Understanding the Syria crisis and the role of the church.

MORE: Your church can respond to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today by doing a Refugee Sunday. Find out more here.

A nation and region ruined by war

Syria’s conflict has devastated the nation. More than 320,000 people have been killed, including nearly 12,000 children. 1.5 million people have been wounded or permanently disabled, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.

How many people have fled their homes?

More than half of the country’s population of 22 million has been forced to leave their homes. Many of them have moved multiple times since the conflict began in March 2011.

At least 6.6 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Syria, and more than 4 million have fled as refugees to neighboring countries.

An estimated 4.8 million people are in areas of Syria that are difficult to access because of the conflict. It’s hard for aid groups to reach them.

About half of those displaced are children.

Increasing numbers of refugees are attempting to reach Europe. Of the nearly 478,000 people who have arrived to Europe by sea in 2015, 54 percent of them come from Syria, the UN Refugee Agency says.

What are the refugees’ greatest needs?

Refugees need food, clothing, health assistance, shelter, and basic household and hygiene items. They need reliable supplies of clean water, as well as sanitation facilities. They need warm clothing, heaters, and heating fuel to get through the winter months.

Children need a safe, protective environment and a chance to play and go to school. Adults need employment options in case of long-term displacement.

Where are the refugees living?

Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; about 10 percent of the refugees have fled to Europe. 

More than 1.1 million refugees are in Lebanon. Many have taken up residence there in communities’ abandoned buildings, sheds, spare rooms, garages, and in tent settlements on vacant land. Conditions are often crowded and unsanitary. Even so, families struggle to pay rent for these spaces.

About 630,000 refugees have settled in Jordan, mostly with host families or in rented accommodations. About 80,000 live in Za’atari, a camp near the northern border with Syria, and about 23,700 live in another camp, Azraq, where World Vision set up much of the water and sanitation system.

What risks do children face?

Children are especially susceptible to malnutrition and diseases related to poor sanitation. Many suffer from diarrheal diseases and dehydration.

Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in unfamiliar and overcrowded conditions. Without adequate income to support their families and fearful of their daughters being molested, parents — especially single mothers — may opt to arrange marriage for girls as young as 13. Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labor in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.

Between 2 million and 3 million Syrian children are not attending school. The U.N. children’s agency says the war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2015, warring parties in Syria forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles.

How is World Vision helping?

Since the beginning of this crisis in 2011, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. We are now also providing aid in Serbia in response to thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe to escape violence in their homelands. View response map to see how we’ve helped so far.

  • Syria: food aid, health assistance, hygiene support, baby care kits, water and sanitation, shelter repair kits, winterization supplies
  • Iraq: food aid, health services, water and sanitation, baby kits, stoves and other winter supplies; for children: education and recreation, programming for life skills, peace building and resilience
  • Jordan and Lebanon: personal and household supplies, clean water and sanitation, education and recreation, Child-Friendly Spaces and child protection training for adults, winter kits and psychosocial support for children
  • Serbia: basic necessities, including cold-weather gear for refugees traveling to Europe; Child-Friendly Spaces and rest areas for women and babies

Here are 3 simple ways you can respond:

1) Get educated

Download and use this free guide, Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role of the Church by Rich Stearns. It is an incredibly helpful introduction into what many have called the greatest refugee crisis in history. With challenging stats and hopeful stories, Rich takes you behind the scenes on the humanitarian crisis and how you can get involved:

Download Now >>


2) Host a Refugee Sunday at your church

Refugee Sunday is a service that will educate, inform and inspire your church to get engaged in the refugee crisis.

Jesus was born into poverty; into oppression; into the margins. And soon after His birth, His family was threatened by violence, and He became a refugee. We believe Jesus is calling His Church to help with the millions of child refugees fleeing violence in Syria. 

Our Refugee Sunday kit has tools for your church’s weekend services to tell the stories of families fleeing, to understand God’s heart for the most vulnerable, and tangible ways to make a difference. 

Click here to find out more about Refugee Sunday:

Find Out More About Refugee Sunday>>


3) Donate to help children now

The children of Aleppo need your church this Christmas. Join Verge in responding today.

The battle over Aleppo City in Northern Syria is taking a terrible toll on civilians. With the on-again, off-again fragile ceasefire, resumed bombings have further increased casualties. Children are being killed and are experiencing horrors of war. As World Vision continues our call for safe evacuation of the besieged population, we are responding to the displaced children and families that have fled Aleppo City by distributing prepositioned critical winter season supplies such as blankets and mattresses. And, we are preparing to respond with emergency supplies such as food, hygiene kits, jerry cans, tarpaulins, and solar lights.

As we remember the birth of Jesus and celebrate a special time of year with friends and family, the battle over Aleppo City rages on – not far from the birthplace of Christ.

Your church’s gift will help provide emergency supplies for children and families fleeing Aleppo.

Donate Now >>