Children of Syria By the Numbers


April 19, 2016

In more than five years of war, the fighting in Syria has left an estimated 470,000 dead, more than 1 million injured, and driven 11.3 million from their homes.

For the millions of children caught in the middle, the war has taken an especially painful toll. According to UNICEF, 8.4 million children – more than 80 percent of Syria’s child population – have been affected by the conflict, either in Syria or as refugees in neighboring countries. In 2015 alone, the agency documented nearly 1,500 “grave violations” against children. The majority of these violations were cases of killing or maiming from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the agency said.

“In short, no place today is safe for Syria’s children,” the agency’s regional chief, Peter Salama, said in March.

It is difficult to know exactly how many children have died as a result of the war, but the United Nations has placed the number in the tens of thousands. Meanwhile, for those still in the war zone, or living abroad as refugees, daily life has become increasingly trying. A closer look by the numbers:

8 in 10 children in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Almost 4 in 10 children in Syria have been displaced from their homes

Of the 6.5 million Syrians who’ve been internally displaced from their homes, an estimated 2.8 million are children. For many of these kids, poor nutrition and lack of access to healthcare have become life-threatening issues. As Save the Children noted in a 2014 report, “It is not just the bullets and the shells that are killing and maiming children. They are also dying from the lack of basic medical care.” In a nation where countless hospitals and medical facilities have been destroyed, routine vaccination services are no longer available for one third of children under five. Deadly diseases like measles and meningitis are now back on the rise. Even polio, which was eradicated in Syria in 1995, is back, with as many as 80,000 children in Syria now thought to be carrying it.

Access to education has been similarly decimated. Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 4,000 attacks on schools have been recorded. Half of school-age children were not enrolled in school in the 2014–2015 school year, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research.

3 in 10 Syrian children under age 5 have not received routine vaccination

1 in 4 schools have been damaged, destroyed or occupied

5 in 10 children are out of school. 

Of the 4.8 million registered Syrian refugees, half are children, according to the United Nations’ commission for refugees. Most are still living in neighboring Middle Eastern nations — 2 million Syrian children have crossed into Turkey and Lebanon alone. Because of the sheer number of refugees, these countries are struggling to provide shelter, resources and opportunities for Syrians fleeing the war. Poverty is high, access to education is low, and children are showing symptoms of psychological strain from the traumas of witnessing war.

In Lebanon, 8 in 10 Syrian children are not enrolled in school. 

More than 6 in 10 Syrian refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line.

In one study in a Turkish refugee camp, more than 4 in 10 Syrian children showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the camp of 8,360 Syrian Refugees, a staggering 79 percent of the children had experienced someone in their family dying, according to the study by the Migration Policy Institute.

Only about 1 in 20 Syrian refugee children have sought asylum in the European Union. 


Dan Nolan

Dan Nolan, Lead Designer for Digital, FRONTLINE



More Stories

Kherson After Liberation: Co-producer of ‘Putin’s Attack on Ukraine’ Documentary Describes Visit
A Ukrainian filmmaker and journalist who was on one of the first trains traveling to the newly liberated city talks to FRONTLINE about the damage he saw in Kherson after eight months of Russian occupation.
November 29, 2022
As Donald Trump Announces His 2024 Run, a Look Back at His Presidency and Impact
FRONTLINE has built a unique public record, in documentary format, of the former president’s impact on American life, politics and democracy — and his previous battles with a special counsel and the Department of Justice.
November 16, 2022
How American Politics Reached This Fraught Moment: 12 Documentaries to Watch Ahead of the Midterms
As a divided America prepares to vote and fears of political violence continue, these FRONTLINE documentaries show how U.S. politics reached this moment.
November 4, 2022
How Russian Soldiers Ran a "Cleansing" Operation in Bucha
"I’ve already killed so many civilians,” a Russian soldier told his wife from Bucha, Ukraine. The Associated Press and FRONTLINE obtained hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and intercepts of audio calls by Russian soldiers that show for the first time what a Russian "cleansing" operation looked like.
November 3, 2022