bambini siriani ad aleppo oggi 2023

In Syria: health, psycho-social and economic support to promote the humanitarian-development nexus

Countries Syria
€ 2,923,043
Direct beneficiaries
Indirect beneficiaries
Main Donors
CEI | AICS | Hungarian Helps | UN OCHA | PLAN
AVSI in Syria
  • Headquarters in Damascus
    Brazil Avenue 1
    Damascus, Syria
    Contacts: Simone Nobile – +963989344977
  • Branch office in Aleppo
    Farhat square
    Aleppo, Syria
  • Branch office in Latakia
    Sacred Heart of Jesus , Baghdad Street
    Latakia, Syria

AVSI has been steadily working in Syria since 2015, with an extensive network of partners and projects, to support the Syrian population, worn-out by 12 years of war and by the long-going economic, health and social crisis.

Just a few hours after the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, 2023, our staff was already providing immediate assistance to the people in Aleppo. After responding to the most immediate humanitarian needs, AVSI has been guaranteeing treatment, psycho-social and economic support to the earthquake victims.

AVSI is one of the 37 international organizations active in Syria. We work on multiple fronts to help the Syrian population: in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia we are engaged in support activities for women and educational activities for children, reaching thousands of people every year. "Open Hospitals" is one of our most important projects, supporting three non-profit hospitals and four clinical dispensaries, to provide free, high-quality medical care.

AVSI believes that long-lasting solutions to the Syrian crisis require the humanitarian response to evolve from emergency assistance to early-recovery actions, to the reconstruction of essential infrastructures and the strengthening of social cohesion with long-term projects.

The situation in Syria today

Today, Syria is facing a dramatic situation. OCHA (the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs) estimated that the humanitarian emergency currently involves 15.3 million people, of whom 6.5 million are children and 6.8 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Furthermore, more than 15 million people still suffer from food insecurity and about 90% of the Syrian population lives below the poverty line (2023 data).

In addition to the conflict that has been going on for the past 12 years, Syria is experiencing a serious economic crisis exacerbated by international sanctions, by the continuing devaluation of the local currency and the rising inflation. Most families cannot afford basic necessities, such as food, water, but also electricity and fuel.

In recent years, Syria has also had to deal with the impact of climate change and the resulting water crisis, which negatively affected the agricultural production.

2023 Syria earthquake: the “worst natural disaster in 100 years in this region

During the night between February 5 and 6, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria. Its epicenter was located near Gaziantep, a city in south-eastern Turkey – about 50 kilometers away from the Syrian border. In south-eastern Turkey and north-western Syria, it caused 50,000 casualties, while thousands were left injured and displaced. The earthquake left 8.8 million Syrians affected by the destruction.

Just a few hours after the first tremors were felt, the AVSI Syria team was operational, helping displaced and wounded people in Aleppo and Latakia. After providing emergency aid, today AVSI guarantees treatment, psycho-social support and basic necessities for the earthquake victims in Aleppo.

In Aleppo, the situation is dramatic: the city is destroyed, so many families have lost their homes. People do not have the strength to face yet another emergency after the war, economic sanctions, financial crisis, COVID and cholera.

These are the words of AVSI staff the day after the earthquake on February 6, 2023

Our intervention in Aleppo after the Turkey-Syria earthquake

Seven months from the earthquake, AVSI has directly helped more than 13,300 people benefited from post-earthquake support activities.

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The cholera epidemic in Syria

The cholera epidemic started in August 2022 in the countryside surrounding Aleppo, it reached the city and then spread to the north of the country. Syria hadn't been touched by cholera for thirteen years. This epidemic has been caused, among others, by the lack of maintenance of water pipes and access to drinking water, by the limited humanitarian and public aid that blocked major infrastructure works, and drought.

Cholera is just one example of the socio-economic struggles that Syria is facing due to the war, poverty, sanctions, and the effects of climate change, with heavy impact on the population.

The war in Syria

The war that began in March 2011 caused what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called "the greatest humanitarian crisis of our era". 5.5 million people have fled the country, while 6.8 million had to leave their homes and are now internally displaced persons who still live in precarious conditions, without access to basic necessities and services.

We cannot overlook what is happening in Syria, a beloved and tortured land, as Pope Francis calls it. And that means we have to act now. We must go at a faster pace, compared to the last few years. Our approach has to change, we need to push for concrete choices.

Giampaolo Silvestri, February 16, 2023, on Italian newspaper Avvenire

Support to the Syrian population

The current situation in Syria has a devastating psycho-social effect on the people. Following the war, the COVID-19 pandemic, the cholera epidemic and the February 2023 earthquake, the population in Syria is disoriented and unable to react. The hope for a better future, nurtured in some way during the war, today has left them.

This is why AVSI, mainly in Aleppo but also in Latakia, implements projects to improve the well-being of vulnerable families through psycho-social support, monthly cash support, assistance and social inclusion for disabled people.

Particular attention is paid to women leading their families, many of them war widows, who find themselves having to support themselves and their children on their own. They are involved in projects that allow them to start an income-generating activity in the field of agriculture and livestock farming: a concrete contribution to improve their economic independence and food security in the family.

Syrian children and the "lost generation"

The war has devastated the lives of thousands of children and teenagers: we are talking about a lost generation that has not been able to attend school and grow up in a safe, welcoming educational environment.

The war has destroyed or damaged many schools, while others have been used for military purposes or to accommodate displaced persons. Today, only two-thirds of schools in Syria are functional. Classrooms are often overcrowded and the buildings lack access to water, proper sanitation facilities, electricity, heating and ventilation systems.

As the 2023 humanitarian needs overview by OCHA reports, more than 2 million Syrian children and young people (aged 6-17) do not go to school, and humanitarian aid and local resources to support their right to education are increasingly reduced. Not going to school exposes children and young people to the risk of different kinds of child exploitation, from early marriages to child labor.

AVSI in Syria is engaged in rehabilitating school buildings: over the years 5 schools have been renovated in the Rif governorate of Damascus (the rural area surrounding the city of Damascus) and 4 in the rural areas outside Aleppo. In 2023, a school in Aleppo that was damaged by the earthquake is undergoing the renovation process.

AVSI also organizes remedial courses and "back to learning" campaigns: our staff visits the communities in person, to offer children and young people who are not studying accelerated remedial courses and helps them get back into the school system. This initiative not only promotes the children's right to education, but also strengthen their protection. Children who are forced to work do so to contribute to the family sustenance. For this reason, these campaigns provide economic incentives to attend school.

Sostegno ai bambini siriani ad Aleppo
More than half of the Syrian population is under 25. For AVSI, investing in education in Syria goes beyond responding to the needs of today's children and young people. It means investing in the future of a generation that has been declared lost, to enable them to be protagonists in their own development and that of their community.

The health crisis and the Open Hospitals campaign  

In Syria, more than 40% of health facilities (hospitals, clinics, dispensaries) was destroyed by the war and over 40% of the health personnel fled abroad. While emergency medical assistance linked to war wounded and war-caused traumas is not as needed anymore, the most urgent problem now is to rebuild the country’s healthcare system, which will take years and lots of money. In today’s Syria people who can’t pay for medical treatment can die of pneumonia, appendicitis, or inguinal ernia. These easily treatable conditions can become fatal for those who do not have access to health care. In addition to that, 25% of the population has some form of disability, against a global average of 15% (HNO 2023). Before the war, Syria was renowned for its healthcare system in the Middle East and public health assistance was largely free. Today everything is destroyed.

In 2017, AVSI launched the Open Hospitals campaign, promoted by the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus and sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development to guarantee free treatment to poor patients in three Syrian non-profit hospitals in Damascus and Aleppo. In 2021, the project was extended to four clinical dispensaries in Damascus, Latakia and Swaida, in the south of the country.

Over the years, “Open Hospitals” has been supported by thousands of donors – private citizens, companies, foundations, institutions, and especially by the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), both through the “8×1000” Italian tax donation and with direct contributions. At the end of April 2024, more than 150,000 free treatments had been provided thanks to this project.

Una visita presso l'ospedale Saint Louis uno dei pochi attivi oggi ad Aleppo, Siria
Una visita presso l'ospedale Saint Louis uno dei pochi attivi oggi ad Aleppo, Siria

There are countless testimonies by the people who received medical treatment thanks to "Open Hospitals": above all, they say they are grateful. Sometimes, they are almost astonished to be lovingly welcomed, even though they have different religious beliefs. It's almost as if the whole country had lost faith in humanity and could no longer believe that others can be good, not always a threat. Some of the people treated came back and asked to serve as volunteers in the hospitals within the project.

Syrian refugees: AVSI projects to support them in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan

Syria is currently the country where the largest number of refugees in the world and in Europe come from: in 2023, over 5 million Syrians live abroad, in over 130 countries all over the world. Most Syrian refugees live in absolute poverty, and almost half of them are children and teenagers.

For years, we have been supporting the Syrian population also in countries that welcome refugees who fled the war. Particularly in Lebanon, where there are approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees, in Jordan and in Iraq.

AVSI in Syria, follow the updates on our social medias