2012 was marked by a continued political stalemate, parties’ increased radicalization and a further militarization of the conflict. This dynamic resulted in a continued and significant deterioration of the humanitarian situation: Between March and December, the number of people in need inside Syria quadrupled, from 1 million to 4 million. During the same period, the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries multiplied more than tenfold, from about 50,000 to over 630,000.
Needs rose in all sectors. At the end of the year, over 2.5 million Syrians required food assistance, while many of the over 4 million affected people required non-food items and other essential assistance. Intense fighting and bombings in urban and predominantly civilian areas resulted in considerable damage to infrastructure, further reducing people’s access to essential services. At year-end, more than half of Syria’s public hospitals had been damaged and those that remained open were short of medical supplies. Water and sanitation systems had broken down, leading to a rapid spread of waterborne diseases, such as Hepatitis A and typhoid. One in five schools had either been destroyed or they were being used as a collective shelter. As the conflict took an increasingly brutal turn, the protection situation became alarming. The prolongation of the crisis and the deteriorating socio-economic situation had an increased impact on local communities, whose coping mechanisms reached saturation point. Their ability to help people in need plummeted.
The situation also had serious humanitarian, political and economic consequences in neighbouring countries and in the wider region.
OCHA focused on establishing inclusive coordination mechanisms, including an inter-sectoral coordination group and the facilitation of sectoral working groups. At the end of the year, those mechanisms were in place and functioning. OCHA also supported the RHC and the UNCT in developing a shared understanding of the humanitarian situation, and defining a clear and common response strategy. The success of those efforts was reflected in the SHARP issued in June and revised in August. The 2013 SHARP was launched in December.
OCHA supported the RHC and the humanitarian community in their efforts to secure the access of assistance to all those in need across the country. At the end of the year, aid was reaching millions of people in need in all Governorates, in both Government and opposition-held or disputed areas. However, significant gaps remained, with some areas still inaccessible for aid organizations.
OCHA and the RHC remained at the forefront of humanitarian advocacy efforts throughout 2012. Six Syria Humanitarian Forums were held in 2012, and many interviews were given to the media. Hundreds of multilateral and bilateral discussions at all levels were organized with key stakeholders. These efforts allowed OCHA to shed light on the plight of Syrian civilians, stress the importance of unimpeded access, reaffirm the impartiality, neutrality and independence of humanitarian action and help partners mobilize necessary resources.
Regarding humanitarian financing, the OCHA office supported the RHC and UN agencies in preparing CERF requests for over US$46 million to address the needs in Syria and neighbouring countries. At the same time, OCHA established the Emergency Response Fund (ERF) to ensure NGO partners had quick and flexible access to funding. At the end of the year, the ERF had already allocated almost $10 million to international and national NGOs in Syria and neighbouring countries. Throughout these processes, OCHA made sure that CERF and ERF allocations corresponded to strategic priorities, such as the winterization response.
OCHA’s achievements helped humanitarian organizations expand their reach to millions of Syrians in need across the country. However, serious challenges remained. Widespread violence and continued lack of humanitarian capacity in-country hampered OCHA efforts to lead much-needed needs assessments and establish inter-agency presences in key affected areas. While the RHC and OCHA’s efforts helped secure access to millions of people, several areas were still out of reach for relief agencies at the end of year. Despite OCHA’s efforts to mobilize resources, the underfunded SHARP was a major challenge throughout 2012.