The Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis in the world, with over 5.6 million registered refugees, including over 2.5 million children, living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Despite the efforts of host governments to provide the refugees with access to public services, such as health and education, demand continues to exceed the capacity of institutions and infrastructure to respond. This is particularly the case in urban areas with significant concentrations of vulnerable populations, where high demand is impacting the quality of services.
The protracted presence of Syrian refugees has exacerbated pre-existing socioeconomic disparities in host countries, with perceived competition for jobs and access to resources and services fuelling local tensions. While Syrian refugees share similar challenges with poor host community members, such as high levels of economic insecurity, they often encounter additional challenges to meeting their basic needs due to their legal status and the impact of residency and labour policies on their mobility and access to essential services. Among the refugees, women, girls, boys, adolescents, youth, the elderly, unaccompanied and separated children and persons with disabilities are the most at risk. Lack of livelihoods and opportunities for self-reliance lead refugee households to resort to informal, sometimes unsafe, exploitative or dangerous work. In some cases, children, often boys, are forced to drop out of school and go to work. Women and girls bear the brunt of sexual and gender-based violence due to continued reliance on harmful cultural and traditional practices such as child marriage. The registered Syrian refugee population is expected to remain substantial throughout 2019.
Insecurity, physical risks, lack of availability of essential services, livelihoods and job opportunities, and legal obstacles to reclaiming property and obtaining civil documentation continue to challenge the sustainable, voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees to the Syrian Arab Republic.
In 2019 and 2020, the inter-agency Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan will address the protection and humanitarian needs of refugees and vulnerable host community populations, while strengthening the capacities of national and sub-national service delivery systems and providing strategic, technical and policy support to advance national responses. To address the protracted and complex nature of the refugee crisis, UNICEF will strengthen its inclusive strategy and gender equity in life-saving humanitarian interventions, while building local resilience by supporting community-based services, developing the capacities of local actors and influencing policies for children. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and supplies will be provided in camps and informal settlements. UNICEF will also promote the transition to more sustainable and cost-effective WASH solutions, including through connection to existing water networks. Equitable access to preventive and curative health and nutrition interventions will be enhanced through routine vaccinations, the expansion of immunization coverage, mass campaigns against outbreaks of diseases such as polio and measles, improved identification, referral and treatment of acutely malnourished children and the promotion of proper feeding practices, including infant and young child feeding. UNICEF will continue to strengthen the linkages between education, child protection and adolescent and youth programming under the No Lost Generation initiative.
Children and caregivers will gain equitable access to structured, sustained psychosocial support and specialized child protection assistance. Child protection monitoring, reporting on grave violations and support for victims and children at risk of child labour, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence will be central to the response, as will accountability to affected people. UNICEF will strengthen national education systems and improve access to and the quality of learning opportunities for boys and girls, focusing on out-of-school children and children with disabilities. Non-formal/ informal education interventions will be expanded and complemented by back-to-learning outreach. UNICEF will overcome demand-side barriers to education through cash incentives and transportation, building the capacities of teachers and education personnel and supporting the integration of Syrian refugee teachers into education systems with financial incentives. Young people and families with vulnerable children, including children with disabilities, will receive social protection, cash transfers, seasonal/winter support and non-food items to strengthen their capacities to address basic needs. Generation Unlimited, the new United Nations partnership and commitment for youth, will be streamlined into the refugee response with programmes supporting the education and skills training/employment of youth, and youth-led initiatives that provide opportunities for meaningful engagement and social cohesion.