Humanitarian Crisis in Syria

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, millions of people have either sought refuge in neighboring nations or have had to leave their homes to find shelter inside the country. As the conflict continues, conditions for civilians become more dire.

This graphic was last updated on: Sept. 9, 2013.

Registered Refugees
1.84 million
Refugees Awaiting Registration
Average Rate of People Leaving Syria
5,000 per day
Internally Displaced
4.25 million
100,000 +
Estimated Syrian Population
22.5 million

Sources: Refugees, UNHCR; Casualties, UN; Internally displaced people, OCHA; Population, CIA.

"Syria has become the great tragedy of this century."
António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


An uptick in refugees began in 2013, when more than 1 million streamed out of Syria in the first half of the year. Nearly three-quarters of the refugees are women and children. About 60 percent of all refugees live outside camps. A July 2013 UN report listed issues facing refugees both in and out of camps: children not attending school, recruitment by armed groups, labor exploitation, early marriage, domestic and sexual violence — in addition to the challenge of providing adequate shelter, food and hygiene facilities. The report called for a less “reactive” solution and more long-term strategy for handling refugees.

Human Rights Watch is reporting that some refugees, such as Palestinians or men of military age, are being held back at border crossings. (Close to half a million Palestinian refugees were living in Syria at the start of the uprising.) In August 2013, HRW said 200 Palestinian asylum seekers were barred from crossing the Syria-Lebanon border.

Refugees Population in Surrounding Regions

Sources: Refugees, UNHCR; Camp information, DOS.

Syrian Refugees (May 2012-Sep 2013)


Inside Syria, an estimated 6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 4.25 million internally displaced people. Syrians' access to health care, water and sanitation is steadily declining; food and fuel supplies are limited; and prices are rising, as is unemployment.

Numbers of internally displaced people have not been updated recently and only 4 percent of the displaced population are living in camps — most are staying in homes with other families, and are difficult to count. In June, the Syrian government reported that 800,000 had returned to their places of origin.


The World Food Programme provided 2.4 million people with food in August, short of its goal of feeding 3 million. The WFP is preparing to feed 4 million total in Syria. Each family receives an 11-pound monthly bread ration and canned food is given to those unable to cook.


Officials estimate between 20 and 30 percent of buildings are damaged or destroyed. Between 16 and 20 percent of school buildings are either damaged, destroyed or being used as shelters for the displaced.


Syria’s war has steadily degraded the provision of health care, with 60 percent of public hospitals reduced to limited or zero capacity. Some 70 percent of health centers are damaged or out of service in the northern battle zones, and a large number of doctors have left. Production of pharmaceuticals has virtually ceased, leading to a surge in treatable diseases – a problem exacerbated by overcrowding and lack of resources among displaced people.

Sources: UNHCR; Human Rights Watch; WFP; OCHA; August Regional Analysis of the Syria Conflict, Syria Needs Analyis Project.

By Michael Keller, Alex Newman and Lam Thuy Vo