The Syrian Conflict

the largest refugee displacement crisis of our time

Since the beginnings of the Syrian conflict in 2011: 

  • 5.6 million people have fled Syria seeking asylum in adjacent and distant countries [1]
  • 6.6 million have been displaced within the country’s borders [1]
  • 50% of refugees worldwide are under the age of 18 [5]
Approximately half of refugees are children [7].
Alan Kurdi, 3, discovered by a parliamentary officer on the shores of Bodrum in Turkey [4].

The photograph of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi lying facedown on a beach, drowned after an ill-fated attempt to reach Turkish shores by boat [4], shocked the world by giving a face and name to those brutalized by the Syrian conflict. The image drew global attention to the refugee crisis and served as an impetus for previously reluctant governments to open their borders to refugees [3].

As militant groups and the Syrian army engage in civil conflict, civilians are caught in the crossfire. Forced to find refuge beyond their borders, they embark on perilous journeys over land and water to neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Turkey alone has received 3.3 million Syrian refugees [1]. Other parts of Europe have welcomed around 1 million refugees. Germany, the largest recipient, opened its borders to 500,000 between 2011 and 2017 [2].

Syrian families in informal tent settlements in Lebanon [6].


  1. UNHCR. (2019). Syria emergency. Retrieved from
  2. Connor, P. (2018, January 29). Most displaced Syrians are in the Middle East, and about a million are in Europe. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
  3. Kingsley, P. & Timur, S. (2015, December 31). Stories of 2015: how Alan Kurdi’s death changed the world. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  4. Demir, N. (2016). Alan Kurdi. [Photograph]. Retrieved from
  5. Sirin, S. R., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2015). The educational and mental health needs of Syrian refugee children. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
  6. Warren, J. (2016). Sunrise lights the sky above an Informal Tented Settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley that houses Syrian refugees. [Photograph]. Retrieved from
  7. (2019). Syrian Refugee Crisis. [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Biology of Global Health Final Project