What's happening in Syria?

ShelterBox NZ Syria conflict international disaster relief

The Syrian conflict is described as the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. It dates back to March 2011, when peaceful public demonstrations began, calling for democratic reforms. But, these peaceful protests were swiftly met by government opposition – giving way to a brutal war.

Ten years later, the Syrian conflict has shifted into a seemingly unsolvable crisis, leaving a country scarred by terror and instability, with a future as uncertain now, as when the fighting first broke out.

Year after year, more heartbreaking milestones are passed. Today, the conflict remains complex and violent. Every child under 10 in Syria has known nothing but war. More ‘crises within a crisis’ unfold, some in the media spotlight, but many go unnoticed.

Right now, at least 12 million people within Syria are displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance, unsure if they will ever be able to return home.

Ten Years of Conflict

ShelterBox NZ international disaster relief Syria conflict

The Syrian crisis has been ShelterBox’s largest and most sustained response in our history. As we mark this tragic 10-year milestone, an estimated 12.3 million people have been displaced by the conflict.

News of the conflict rarely makes headlines, but it rages on. And the political stalemate means the future is as uncertain as ever. As the fighting continues, millions of displaced Syrians face brutal winters, floods that wash away shelters, financial issues and the additional threat of coronavirus.

We call on all parties involved to prioritise the civilians of Syria, by ceasing hostilities, maintaining humanitarian access for aid supplies – and ultimately finding a path to resolution and peace.

Key Facts about the Crisis

  • The war has lasted ten years and counting.
  • More than 12.3 million people have been displaced by the conflict.
  • Over 900,000 people have fled the violence in Idlib since December 2019 alone.
  • One in four schools have been damaged, destroyed or used for shelter.
  • Over half of Syria’s hospitals are no longer functioning.
  • Over 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

What challenges do people face?

Syria conflict international disaster relief ShelterBox NZ

Financial Crisis:
Financially, Syria is on its knees. The Syrian pound has halved in value and widespread sanctions affect the flow of money coming into the country.

Basics like fuel, food and medicines are now out of reach for people who were already struggling to access them. The cost of a food basket, for example, has increased by 236% in just 12 months.

Extreme Weather:
Syria faces extreme heat in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter. Just this February, days of heavy rain caused widespread floods in the northwest of Syria, destroying thousands of tents and soaking families’ possessions.

Without warm clothes, blankets and proper insulation, families have no choice but to group together in shared shelters to ensure they survive the winter.


ShelterBox NZ distributes emergency shelter to families devastated by ongoing conflict in Syria.

Right now, coronavirus is another deadly threat looming over displaced families in Syria.

In February 2021, a WHO official said that an initial vaccine rollout may only reach 3% of the Syrian population – and there were serious concerns over how fairly those vaccines would be distributed.

The need for humanitarian support is greater than ever for vulnerable families already living in inhumane conditions.  The mitigations we’re familiar with at home, such as widespread lockdowns, social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures, are almost impossible in a fractured country, where millions are displaced and living in emergency shelter, with little or no sanitation.

We have been working harder than ever with our partners ReliefAid to provide families with the aid they so urgently need.

Our tents and ShelterKits can help people to keep a distance from each other. Blankets and sleeping mats can keep people warm and dry. Water filters and cooking sets allow families to have warm meals and clean water, helping families stay as healthy as possible.

How are we helping families?

Syria conflict ShelterBox NZ international disaster relief

We are providing shelter for families who have been forced to leave their homes due to the conflict in Syria.

When families are far from home, and traumatised from their experiences, having a safe place to call home is invaluable.

More than 400,000 people in the region have received ShelterBox aid since we first responded to the crisis in December 2012. This makes it the largest, most sustained response in our history.

To date, we have provided:

  • 20, 000 tents, for when families lose their homes and need somewhere to stay protected from the elements.
  • 175, 000 thermal blankets, as well as winter clothing, mattresses, and sometimes stoves, to combat the freezing temperatures.
  • 58, 000 solar lights, some of which come with a USB port to charge phones and maintain vital communication between families.

When families are far from home, and traumatised from their experiences, having a safe place to call home is invaluable. Our aim is to help vulnerable people who are not being reached by other humanitarian organisations.

Stories from Syria


ShelterBox international relief aid in Syria

Our partners help us provide aid in some of the most remote and dangerous conflict zones around the world.

In Syria, we’re working with ReliefAid and Bahar Organisation to get our aid to those who need it the most.

But what motivates these extraordinary individuals to risk their lives to deliver aid in such dangerous circumstances?

Meet Farid and find out what life looks like for aid workers in Syria