For 12 years, Syria has suffered from grinding internal conflict and war. This has strained Syrians and their economy. More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced, both internally as well as in neighboring countries. According to the World Bank, socioeconomic conditions in Syria are deteriorating rapidly. Due to the depreciation of its currency, inflation is “rampant” and real wages are “eroding” which is constantly forcing individuals into poverty. Furthermore, the economic crisis of Syria negatively affects its neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. And as the war and conflict continue, poverty reduction in Syria remains minimal.
Poverty and Everyday Struggles
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that 90% of Syria’s population lives in poverty and struggles to make ends meet for their families. Since the start of the conflict, access to housing, chances for employment, health, education, water and sanitation have all significantly deteriorated. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the current susceptibility of the population. As a result of extreme poverty, with Syria’s GDP and GNI per capita declining, the World Bank officially reclassified the country as a low-income country in 2018. With this reclassification, the damage done to Syria’s economy since 2011 is emphasized, making the country eligible for funding from the International Development Association (IDA).
In 2022, food insecurity and hunger in Syrian households reached historic highs, with 12.4 million people (more than half the country’s population) reporting some level of food insecurity and 1.3 million reporting severe food insecurity. According to Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operations Officer Anas Jerjawi, “the humanitarian response plan for Syria has received only 25% of the necessary funding, which clearly means that the international community has failed millions of Syrians who are exhausted by poverty and conflict.”
The lack of humanitarian response from donor countries halts poverty reduction in Syria. Nearly 14.6 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance and half of them are children. Despite the lack of help from outside entities, there are organizations working to help poverty reduction in Syria as well as provide a humanitarian response.
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Work in Syria
To help poverty reduction in Syria, UNICEF, which focuses on helping children and their families, is applying multiple strategies that aim to reduce poverty and restore educational, health and water systems in Syria. According to its website, the organization is investing in repairing water systems cost-effectively, making sure further degradation of these systems comes to a halt. Along with supporting local supply networks, UNICEF will incorporate climate resilience into its programming. To support learning and maintain the resilience of families, schools and communities, UNICEF will refocus the majority of its investments in education toward initiatives that develop cognitive and capacity-building efforts. It will continue to take the lead in assisting with school rehabilitation, curriculum development and staff training to keep kids learning and catching up.
UNICEF intends to expand its preventative nutrition programs to stop the longer-term detrimental effects of malnutrition on children’s growth and cognitive development. Additionally, this will increase the ability of community volunteers and front-line health workers to educate parents about proper infant and early child feeding techniques. Carrying on with support for partners, especially in the most severely affected areas, UNICEF will work to assist health workers and community volunteers to deliver an integrated package of primary health care.
Oxfam’s Water Rehabilitation in Syria
Oxfam is “a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice.” Similar to UNICEF, the organization does support work in other areas that poverty impacts. Oxfam, with the help of partners, delivers development initiatives, public education, campaigns, advocacy efforts and humanitarian aid in emergencies and conflicts.
Noting that Syria has the largest refugee crisis in the world, Oxfam has a multi-pronged approach to Syria. This includes the provision of clean water, focus on hygiene and distribution of cash, food and agricultural supplies. Its water infrastructure rehabilitation efforts are benefiting at least 1.5 million people. Additionally, Oxfam intends to assist with solid refugee management and wastewater disposal, as well as promote public health and secure the basic necessities of life for Syrians. Oxfam also focuses on Syria’s neighboring countries that have been affected. In Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, the organization works to help refugees access clean water and opportunities that can help improve their living conditions.
In the face of immense challenges, organizations like UNICEF and Oxfam are working tirelessly to combat poverty in Syria and provide vital assistance to vulnerable communities. Through their efforts, initiatives to repair water systems, improve education, enhance health care and promote nutrition are being implemented, offering hope for a brighter future. Despite the limited funding and lack of support from donor countries, these organizations continue to make a significant impact on poverty reduction and contribute to the overall well-being of the Syrian population.
– Brianna Green