Study: 61% of families in northern Syria have debts

A man sits near his tent in the Fukara'a Allah camp in the countryside of Idlib, northern Syria - November 22, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Iyad Abdul Jawad)

A man sits near his tent in the Fukara'a Allah camp in the countryside of Idlib, northern Syria - November 22, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Iyad Abdul Jawad)


A study conducted by the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) has revealed that 30% of Syrians in areas of northern Syria rely on daily (irregular) work as a primary and secondary source of income.

The study, which included samples from cities and rural areas not under the control of the Syrian regime in the provinces of Idlib, Aleppo, Hama, Latakia, Raqqa, al-Hasakah, and Deir Ezzor, indicated that 20% of Syrians in those areas pay housing rents that exceed one-third of the average salaries, and 61% of families have debts, while 75% of households are unable to save any amount of money during the month. Additionally, the lowest average income for residents reaches a value of 110 US dollars, significantly below the minimum expenditure basket by 20 dollars.

The study, released at the beginning of April, titled “Income and Expenses Assessment in Northern Syria,” and whose data were collected between September 17 and 24, 2023, pointed to the reliance on irregular daily work and child labor for families as a cause for concern, while regular employment remains a primary source of income for many.

Sources of income for residents

According to the study, 34% of households rely on regular work as a primary and secondary source, while 31% of the sample indicated it as their third source, and 30% of respondents identified irregular daily work as a primary and secondary source of income and considered it as their third source.

The study noted that 2% of the surveyed individuals rely on children as a primary and secondary source of income for their families, while 3% consider it their third source, raising significant concerns and confirming the urgent need for targeted interventions to protect vulnerable families and enhance sustainable livelihoods.

According to the information obtained by the study, and based on the Assistance Coordination Unit’s interactive population movement map, the population in areas outside the control of the Syrian regime in northern Syria amounts to 8 million, 513 thousand, and 640 individuals, within 1 million, 606 thousand, and 347 families, living in 3 thousand and 59 communities and 1,527 camps for the displaced.

The study was based on a survey of a random sample of families in the covered areas through 2,234 questionnaires, 23% female and 77% male.

Income below minimum expenditure

The analysis revealed significant disparities in household income levels across northern Syria, particularly, the northwestern region that includes the northern countryside of Aleppo which had the lowest average income, reaching 110 US dollars, less than the minimum expenditure basket by 20 US dollars.

The family income in Deir Ezzor province stands at 120 US dollars, while a family needs between 70 to 79 US dollars for living, which is relatively cheaper compared to northern Syria.

The value of household income in the northeastern regions of Syria (Al-Hasakah, Deir Ezzor, and the eastern countryside of Aleppo province, and Raqqa) ranges between 120 to 195 US dollars per month, with the cost of the minimum expenditure basket not exceeding 79 dollars.

According to the study, the value of the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) for October 2023 was taken from JMMI REACH (Joint Market Monitoring Initiative) data for the same month.

20% paying housing rent

The study clarified that 20% of the survey participants are responsible for paying the rent of their dwelling.

Regarding the ability to cover rental costs, the results showed that 66% of them cannot cover all required amounts, at the same time, 16% of people answered that the family head is unable to pay only a part of the rent amount, while 18% are unable to pay the amount at all.

In northwestern Syria, the highest average rent was recorded in the city of Afrin, northern Aleppo, where it reached 48 US dollars, followed by the city of Idlib with an amount reaching 45 dollars, as these amounts represent more than a third of monthly income.

In the northeastern regions of Syria, the highest average for housing rent was recorded in Raqqa, reaching 41 US dollars, and the government employee’s salary at the Autonomous Administration (the political umbrella for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)) exceeds one million Syrian pounds.

The salary of a government employee in areas controlled by the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), which controls aspects of life in Idlib province, northern Hama countryside, and part of the western countryside of Aleppo, administratively and service-wise, ranges between 80 and 110 US dollars, while the salary of an employee in the areas of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) reaches between 25 and 59 US dollars.

The exchange rate of the Syrian pound against the dollar at the time of writing this report is 13,850 according to the S-P Today website, which specializes in monitoring currency movements in Syria, while the US dollar equals 31.9 Turkish lira according to the website “Investing.”

Debts exacerbate the situation

The study showed that 61% of the individuals have debts, with a higher percentage in northwest Syria, where 77% of people in the Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain areas reported having debts, followed directly by a 62% rate in Idlib.

The prevalence of debts also varies in the northeastern regions of Syria, with the city of al-Hasakah coming in first place among the surveyed individuals at 73%, 71% in Deir Ezzor, and 70% in Raqqa, and fluctuations in income from one month to another can negatively affect the family’s ability to effectively plan its total resources.

Regarding saving money, 75% of the sample reported that their families cannot save any money, while 9% of them can save between 1 to 20 US dollars, and 4% can save 21 to 40 dollars, with 5% being able to save between 41 to 60 US dollars.

Humanitarian aid

35% of the individuals answered that they received humanitarian aid during the last 60 days, while 65% did not receive any humanitarian aid.

The aid is distributed between in-kind at 63%, 25% cash vouchers, 10% health services, and 2% living assistance.

The study pointed out that the data were collected before significant reductions in humanitarian aid took place, therefore the percentage of people receiving aid has decreased, leading to the deprivation of more individuals.

On June 13, 2023, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced a reduction in its food aid to about 2.5 million people, after it had been provided to about 5.5 million people who depend on aid in Syria, attributing the reason for this to a funding shortage crisis.

The statement at the time justified the lack of support from donor agencies due to the high level of humanitarian needs around the world, global economic challenges, and financial tightening by major donor agencies, which led to not providing the same level of support for Syria.

Dire situation

In Syria, 16.7 million people need humanitarian assistance, an increase of 9% over 2023, according to estimates from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In 2024, 80% of the Syrian population will need some form of humanitarian assistance, according to statistics released on February 12, by the World Food Programme (WFP) on the number of people suffering from food insecurity in Syria.

About 55% of the population in Syria, or 12.9 million people, suffer from food insecurity, of which 3.1 million suffer severely from food insecurity.



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