Forced Dispersion: A Demographic Report on Human Status in Syria

- +



This report diagnoses the population question in Syria before and during the crisis, by means of a rights-based participatory methodology. This diagnosis has involved a recalculation of some of the significant demographic indicators for the period prior to the crisis, including birth, mortality, and fertility rates, with one result being that population issues have been re-read from a different perspective. To overcome the lack of theoretical and applied studies and research during the crisis, this report used the results of a field multi-purpose survey. This survey was designed and implemented in order to achieve an in-depth understanding of the population status in the shadow of the crisis, together with the risks associated with its continuation, and to develop future alternatives toward ending the crisis and reducing its impact.



Read the interview Jadaliyya conducted with the members of the Syria Center for Policy Studies. 

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Rabie Nasser (RN): The Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR), an independent and non-profit research center, seeks to study and diagnose the socioeconomic roots and impact of the conflict in Syria. The research team worked to build a comprehensive framework to analyze the institutional, social, economic, and environmental status of the country and its people during the conflict; we called the new framework the Human Status of Syrian people. One essential pillar of the framework is the demographic dynamics—factors like mortality, fertility, and migration of the population. As the conflict caused severe impacts in terms of increasing conflict related deaths and wounded people, distortion in fertility patterns, and aggravation of forced displacement inside and outside the country, the team chose to conduct a national survey to build the analysis on hard evidence and to understand the dynamics of demographic distortions. Based on said analysis, the book provided policy alternatives to counter the demographic consequences of the Syrian catastrophe. 

J:  What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?

RN: The book revisited the demographic transition in Syria before the conflict and produced new evidences on population growth, mortality, fertility, and migration. The results show that the last decade (2000-2010) witnessed some adverse results; the average annual population growth rate of the Syrian residents reached 2.9 percent for the period spanning from 2004-2010 (compared to 2.45 percent according to the official estimations), which reflects an increase in the fertility rate. The pre-conflict analysis also shows an increase in mortality rate between the years 2007-2010, which profoundly reflects increasing deprivation of appropriate health services and living conditions. Additionally, the lifetables of Syria that have been built for this book show that the life expectancy at birth in the official estimations (including the WHO ones) are overestimated and do not capture the reduction in life expectancy between the years 2007-2010. These adverse shifts indicate the failure of population-related programs and policies that targeted reducing population growth rates, and it provides additional proof of the inefficiency of family planning programs in isolation from inclusive development.

During the conflict, the team conducted a non-traditional survey to capture the demographic transition. This survey revealed many indicators: first, the crude mortality rate increased from 4.4 per thousand in 2010 to 10.8 per thousand in 2015, accounting for the indirect and direct deaths of about 1.9 percent of the total population. As a result, the life expectancy declined significantly for males a from 69.7 in 2010 to 48.4 in 2015, and to a lesser extent for females, from 72 years in 2010 to 65 years in 2015. Second, it estimated the total population inside Syria, which was 20.2 million people in 2015, about 31 percent of whom were displaced, along with 4.1 million refugees and migrants. Consequently, the portion of the population that had not moved was about 57 percent of the total population inside and outside Syria. Third, the crude birth rate witnessed a notable decrease, from 38.8 per thousand in 2010 to 28.5 per thousand in 2014, which reflected a decline in total fertility rate to 3.7 in 2014. These results contradict many perceptions about increased fertility rates during conflict, particularly among displaced people. The lack of security, the deterioration of living conditions, and the general sense of instability accompanied by family fragmentation imposed by the conflict have led to the spread of early marriages and the exploitation of children and women’s rights.  

The book provides a critical assessment of the population policies and counters the narrative that assumed that high population growth is the core root of the conflict. This narrative neglects the role of political oppression and role of neoliberal policies, which ultimately failed to achieve inclusive growth and human security. The book suggests priorities for population policies to halt the conflict and overcome its impacts. In this context, dramatic changes in population policies should be adopted toward priorities of stopping the killing, guaranteeing the right to life, decomposing the economics of violence, and facing the challenges of forced internal and external migration to regain people and social cohesion. The main issue during the conflict is to build population policies within effective and participatory institutions that take into account developmental and humanitarian dimensions in preparing, implementing, and monitoring phases of any policy. Moreover, changes of the actors’ roles should be taken into account in building new institutions and contributing to future population policies. These actors include the state, emerged local powers, civil society, private sector, and the international community.     

[. . .]

Read more







Author's Info

The Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR) is an independent, non-governmental, and non-profit research center; which undertakes public policy oriented research to bridge the gap between research and policy making process. SCPR aims to develop a participatory evidence-based policy dialogue to achieve policy alternatives that promote sustainable, inclusive, and human-centered development.


To find out more, visit SCPR’s website: http://scpr-syria.org/



Table of Contents

The Report Team5


Executive Summary7


I. Methodology for the Human Status Reports Collected in Syria15

II. Literature Review of the Population Issue22

III. The Demographic Status in Syria before the Crisis29

a) The main population characteristics | 29

b) Reproductive health and fertility | 44

c) Morbidity and mortality | 50

d) Internal and external migration | 55

IV. The Demographic Status during the Crisis59

a) Demographic indicators and characteristics | 61

1) Population size and growth | 61

2) Fertility and reproductive health | 62

3) Changes in marriage and divorce trends | 68

4) Crude mortality rate | 70

5) Life expectancy | 73

6) Population distribution and density | 75

b) Population map in Syria | 76

1) Population inside Syria | 78

2) Population outside Syria | 87

V. Toward Participatory Population Policies94

Results and Conclusions103



Appendix 1: The Population Status Survey 2014 | 114

Appendix 2: Comparison between Previous and Adjusted Demographic

Indicators | 126

Appendix 3: Life Table 2010 | 128

Appendix 4: Population by Governorates and Residency Status (Mid 2014) | 130

Appendix 5: IDPs Matrix by Governorates | 132

Appendix 6: Population and IDPs Characteristics by Governorates |  133

See more: Books
Scroll to top