The conflict in Syria
by Humanitarian Practice Network November 2013

This edition of Humanitarian Exchange, co-edited with Ben Parker, features the humanitarian crisis created by the conflict in Syria. Since the civil war began there in March 2011, an estimated 100,000 people have been killed, five million have been displaced within Syria and over two million – half of them children – have fled to neighbouring countries. Humanitarian agencies have struggled to reach people in desperate need of assistance in both government- and rebel-controlled areas, hampered by ongoing conflict and government-imposed bureaucratic restrictions. During the almost three years of conflict, 22 Syrian Red Crescent volunteers have been killed and several aid workers have been kidnapped.

  • In his lead article, Ben Parker shows how Syria has exposed the weaknesses in conventional humanitarian practice and the difficulties of engaging in such a fluid and complex environment.
  • Reflecting on three main types of crossborder operations in humanitarian history, Hugo Slim and Emanuela-Chiara Gillard discuss whether such operations can be pursued ethically and legally in Syria
  • Brian Tisdall and Samina Haq explain the different approaches the International Committee of the Red Cross and Islamic Relief have taken to reach people in need.
  • Echoing Ben Parker’s conclusions, François Grünewald argues that effective humanitarian response in conflict-affected urban areas in Syria requires risk-taking and a capacity to engage in principled strategic dialogue with a wide range of actors.
  • Tania Cheung reports on an interview with Dr. Nizar Hammodeh, a British-Syrian doctor, on diaspora-led medical relief efforts, neutrality and humanitarian access in Syria
  • A local Syrian activist, forced to remain anonymous for safety reasons, highlights how the techniques activists used to organise protests and demonstrations were quickly adapted to provide vital humanitarian and social assistance.
  • Frances Voon discusses the findings of an evaluation of UNHCR’s response to the refugee crisis
  • Simone Haysom, Ben White and Eleanor Davey explore past episodes of displacement in the region.
  • The response to the refugee crisis in Jordan is assessed by Sandrine Tiller and Sean Healy
  • Carol Brady and Thomas Wildman report on using market assessments to help refugees access water there.
  • The challenges of providing education to Syrian refugees in Turkey are highlighted by Selin Yildiz Nielsen and Mark Grey.
  • The issue ends with articles from the Syria Needs Assessment Project (SNAP), which draws lessons from many assessments of the humanitarian situation in Syria, and the Child Protection Working Group, on key findings from a 2013 interagency assessment of child protection inside Syria.

As always, we welcome any comments or feedback, which can be sent to or to The Coordinator, 203 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NJ.