Syria: Complex Emergency Emergency Revised Emergency Appeal n° 9 (MDRSY003)

This revised Emergency Appeal seeks a total of 30.8 million Swiss francs to support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to continue providing life-saving assistance that meets the critical humanitarian needs of more than one million vulnerable people in 2021 - including food distributions for more than 60,000 households, emergency household items support for 30,000 households, winter support for 30,000 children, income generation support for 33,000 households. The operation will also support 450,000 people to access health care services and hygiene promotion interventions.

This revision increases the overall Appeal funding requirement to 208.9 million Swiss francs for the period of July 2012 to December 2021, of which 184.1 million Swiss francs has been received (between July 2012 to October 2020). Out of the total funds received; a total expenditure of 178.1 million Swiss francs has been registered (until October 2020) and approximately 6 million Swiss francs will be carried forward to 2021, leaving a funding gap of 24.8 million Swiss francs and an extended timeframe until 31 December 2021. Funding is very urgently needed to honour Appeal commitments and support an additional one million people taking into consideration the evolving humanitarian situation in Syria and changes in the operational context due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This revised Emergency Appeal (EA) is one of two complementary planning tools, the other being the Operational Plan (OP) which will essentially mirror the EA. The One Plan and Budget approach will enable SARC to continue providing essential services when and where needed throughout Syria. While ensuring the gradual migration of the Emergency Appeal to support strategic priorities of SARC, the OP will accommodate new incoming resources and pledges for 2021. It takes into account the coordinated interventions of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Partner National Societies active in Syria.

Situation Update

Syria is entering the 10th year of the crisis which has devastated the country compounded by multiple displacement of people, with hunger reaching record levels and increasing inter-factional fighting. The worsening economic crisis is deepening the poverty and pushing more Syrians into humanitarian needs. According to the latest Global Humanitarian Overview 2021 report, 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. Throughout 2020 we have witnessed the evolution of the Syria crisis in all its complexity. While in some locations there is increasing stability and an end to prolonged crisis and with the changing economic circumstances, there is still a need for continued programming that meets the immediate need of people affected by the crisis, particularly in the north surrounding Idleb, with rural Aleppo and Al Raqqa and the North East (Hasaka) down the Euphrates to Dier Ez-Zour, where tens of thousands of people, many of whom are women and children are fleeing their homes in search of safety. The south of the country surrounding Daraa has especially seen a worsening security situation for people already suffering from nearly 10 years of crisis. The World Food Programme (WFP) has reported that in Darra Governorate, with a population of some one million people, 41 per cent are food insecure and over a third of the population are returnees.

This continued insecurity in 2020 has been further impacted by economic factors including the ongoing complex and deteriorating economic situation in neighbouring Lebanon, the effects of the COVID–19 pandemic and the tightening of sanctions. In addition to that, it is estimated that the wildfire incidents in October 2020 burned more than 30,000 hectares of agricultural and forest land across the coastal region of Syria, affecting at least 100,000 people (19,000 families) through the destruction and damage to homes and livelihoods assets, loss of power and water supply. The current socioeconomic situation represents some of the most challenging humanitarian conditions experienced in the past 10 years. As always, SARC continues to respond to immediate needs with emergency relief supported by the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and alongside INGOs and UN partners. At the time of writing (December 2020), the events underway in the North of Syria are being supported by cross border operations but SARC stands by to activate cross lines support. IFRC is monitoring daily and planning alongside SARC to ensure priority services are delivered to the most affected communities.

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown for several months impacted Syrian people severely, with movement restrictions, increasing prices, job losses, difficulties in accessing basic services such as business, education and health care. Though not entirely blocked, humanitarian activities suffered delays further affecting those in need of assistance. International delegates were stranded around the world striving to provide support virtually in a country where direct physical contact is essential to conducting effective business. In the words of Syrians “we have three choices: dying because of crisis, economic sanctions or the Corona virus”. In this context, only partial lockdowns were maintained to stem specific flareups and life resumed. The IFRC was quick in taking a number of steps that enabled SARC to conduct their work. Financial resources were successfully transferred into the country. Procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) was conducted locally thus limiting international transportation delays. Hence, SARC could adapt to the new threats, resume key activities and catch up with some of the delays. Instead of the usual large groups, food distributions were made to smaller groups and even door-to-door. This resulted in increased logistics costs, but a safer environment for volunteers and the population alike. All ambulance emergency calls were treated as potential COVID risks and measures were taken to protect SARC’s first responders. In addition to the five million people assisted by SARC annually, more than two million people received COVID-19 related response support. With Syria still lacking the capacity and resources to conduct large scale testing and intensive care the threats of COVID-19 will remain for the months to come.

With no political solution to the Syrian crisis in sight, resources and support for humanitarian work in Syria is steadily diminishing. During 2020, SARC, the IFRC Secretariat and indeed the whole Red Cross Red Crescent Movement conducted intense humanitarian diplomacy and advocacy efforts. In July 2020, the IFRC President and SARC Secretary General (SG) addressed the Brussels EU/UN Syria conference while in November, the SARC SG had the opportunity to address a session of the UN Security Council highlighting the negative impact on Syrian civilians and the work of SARC. March 2021 will mark 10 years since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. This provides an opportunity for the Movement to further impress upon governments the urgency of reaching a lasting political solution to the crisis as well as the importance of continuing the support of principled, impartial and neutral humanitarian work in Syria. "Needs have deepened", is how humanitarian actors working within Syria describe the current situation. People in Syria continue to suffer from increasingly localized, intensified hostilities which uproot families from their homes, claim civilian lives, damage and destroy basic infrastructure, and limit freedom of movement. Almost 40 per cent of internally displaced families have been displaced more than three times, with every displacement further eroding coping capacity. Repeat displacement numbers are particularly high for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in north-west and north east Syria. Contested areas are vast with large populations and the threat of armed crisis has not disappeared, ambushes, sniper and similar ad-hoc, improvised explosive device (IEDs) are still happening in these areas and people still need urgent assistance.

The WFP has stated that 6.7 million people are internally displaced, with 9.3 million people food insecure and 2.2 million people at risk of food insecurity. The food insecurity has deteriorated over the past two years, and people are sliding deeper towards poverty than at any other time during the crisis. Throughout 2020 the situation in Syria remained fluid with growing complexities as a result of the COVID–19 pandemic which have witnessed the evolution of the Syria crisis in all its complexity. The UNDP multi-dimensional indicators estimate that the national poverty rate in Syria is at 38 per cent. Key aggravating factors include low supply of USD, high inflation, and a rising exchange rate of the Syrian Pound (SYP) to USD – reaching to SYP 1,256 per 1 USD in June 2020 and informal SYP/USD exchange rate reached SYP 3,200 per USD. Financial and other impacts of sanctions, especially inflation, raises costs of basic items in the market and for SARC, a large portion of the funding is reduced due to currency exchange losses. Although the informal exchange rate has remained stable until October 2020, it resulted in significant price rises and USD scarcity in the country. With market prices following the informal exchange rate the consequence is a more than double loss in purchase power for ordinary citizens and humanitarian organizations alike. This also delayed some of the tendering processes in the pipeline and disrupted overall supply chains for various programmes, as contractors were unable to deliver goods and supplies according to framework agreements. Similarly, contractors and suppliers are reluctant to enter longer-term predictable contracts. Furthermore, significant devaluation of the Syrian Pound compared to 2019 has had a severe impact on the purchasing power of Syrians in general, with reduced capacity of the households to cover their basic needs and has left them with limited strategies to cope with ongoing crisis.

There is still a high risk associated with the ongoing operation in Syria and health needs remain critical with 11.3 million Syrians in need of health assistance. The security situation and access to areas can change at short notice and frequently during implementation of activities keeping operations on an emergency footing. The crisis in North-West Syria continues to impact basic life-saving services to civilians. It is therefore mandatory for the humanitarian community to adjust its strategy towards life-saving support, while responding to fluid population movements in a context of limited capacities or funding. The healthcare system in Syria has been weakened by the protracted crisis, impacting every aspect of the health system and reducing the capacity of public and private health care sectors to deliver services. Inadequate health financing for health professionals, support systems and supplies continue to contribute towards this critical lack of access. The return of Syrian refugees to Syria as well as increasing movements of IDPs is expected to cause more burden on the existing overstretched service delivery mechanisms and increase of the need to provide protection to people and facilities. Governorates of Aleppo, Rural Damascus, Idleb, Al Raqqa, Homs, Al-Hassakeh, Hama, and Dara are expected to host most of the returnees, the majority of IDPs. According to latest Needs Assessment by OCHA and cluster reports, reflect that 0.5 million people in these locations will require lifesaving health services.

Describing the crisis needs to be done through the lens of the people affected; this is very much a crisis that impacts people in different ways. Firstly, recognizing the acute needs in areas that are still disputed and engaged in crisis, such as the North of Syria. Secondly, the needs of households within communities that are no longer experiencing fighting but still bear the consequences of 10 years of crisis through damaged infrastructure, blighted economic conditions and prospects. As sanctions can be expected to continue, poverty will remain while food programmes may become unsustainable. This is factored into SARC’s programming for 2021, with the need to progressively move from food aid to livelihoods assistance, and some level of recovery and resilience, as recognised in the SARC’s Strategic Plan 2020-2022. SARC has been responding to the needs of these communities, and the years of crisis have profoundly changed the National Society. In the months and years ahead, the important subject of analysis is what the nature of these changes are, and how SARC should evolve to retain its relevance in Syria. In order to support SARC to continue responding in the most agile and effective way donors are kindly requested to provide flexible unearmarked funding.