UNITED NATIONS, New York – UNFPA is concerned about the impact of the recent escalation of violence in and around Damascus, particularly on women, youth and their families in areas under fire. The Fund is also alarmed over raging violence against civilians in other parts of the country, which has forced large numbers of women and girls to flee for safety into Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
UNFPA reiterates that immediate and unhindered access to women and girls in need of life-saving assistance in Damascus area, especially emergency obstetric care, is urgently needed. The agency also reminds all sides of their responsibility to ensure the protection of women and girls.
“If there is one thing we know about Syria it is women, girls, youth and their families have suffered far too much for too long,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “Syria’s conflict is gradually ripping apart the social fabric and breaking down families’ structures.”
Violence in Syria is taking a heavy toll on mothers, who are losing their children and other family members, and on pregnant women caught up in areas under attack, fearing for their lives and that of their children.
Increased internal displacement is putting a strain on major cities, especially Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, forcing people to leave their communities and seek refuge outside their country.
The intensifying conflict and associated stress also has the potential of increasing gender-based violence. Women and girls who fled their native cities and home country have left behind the safety they used to enjoy within their communities. Many of them feel more exposed to violence, including harassment, abuse and exploitation.
“Families fleeing Syria’s mayhem are now spread across the region. The challenge of delivering humanitarian assistance is now ever greater as the conflict continues unabated,” warned the Executive Director.
Over 40,000 Syrians refugees have fled into Iraq’s Kurdistan region since last week and thousands more are waiting to enter into the region, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
For UNFPA, this new influx means that over 2,000 pregnant women may require urgent medical attention. Many of them must have walked for hours before they crossed the Iraqi border, fearing miscarriage.
As at June 2013, UNFPA, through its implementing partners, has availed many services in Syria, including prenatal and post-natal care for pregnant women, psychosocial support, family planning and emergency obstetric care for over 60,000 women. Through its mobile teams and medical volunteers, the Fund has distributed more than 30,000 of vouchers that allow Syrian women to receive free-of- charge maternal health and obstetric services, and provided medical and psychological services for gender-based violence survivors.
In neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, UNFPA has distributed dignity kits, trained medical personnel, equipped clinics and hospitals with equipment and reproductive health kits. It has also established reproductive clinics, safe spaces for women and youth.
UNFPA will continue to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
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