Situation for women and girls in Syria worse than ever before as conflict grinds on
09 May 2022
09 May 2022
7.3 million women and girls need life-saving sexual and reproductive health services
[United Nations, New York] - As donors meet at the Brussels VI Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, calls for urgent action to alleviate the suffering of Syrian women and girls as their rights continue to be an unseen casualty of the protracted crisis, now entering its twelfth year.
Ongoing hostilities, displacement, compounded by drought, an unrelenting pandemic and economic collapse, are driving the ever-increasing humanitarian needs in Syria and the region. Nearly 26.5 million people are in need of assistance, including 14.6 million people inside Syria and approximately 12 million refugees and host community members. An estimated 11.7 million people – nearly half the pre-war population – remain internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring countries, including around half a million pregnant women and adolescent girls. Some 7.3 million women and girls are in need of life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, including maternal care, as the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth continues to increase in Syria and neighbouring countries.
“The situation for women and girls in Syria and the region is worse now than it has been since the conflict began. They face enormous challenges, including mounting risks to their health and safety,” said Dr Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA Regional Director, Arab States. “We must step up efforts to ensure that their rights to give birth safely and live free from violence are protected and that they can actively participate in finding a sustainable path forward.”
Spiralling food prices — which could be pushed even higher by the war in Ukraine — have left families struggling to survive, and when food is scarce it is often women and girls who eat last and least. Fuel shortages and a lack of electricity are also hampering the delivery of and access to basic services, including reproductive health care and services for survivors of gender-based violence.
More than a decade of instability and displacement have sharply increased women and girls’ risks and vulnerabilities to multiple forms of physical and sexual violence, and child marriage rates have spiked. Women and girls tell UNFPA that violence and abuse have become so widespread and unchecked that many feel it has become normalised, an accepted reality of daily life. For some young women and girls it is all they have ever known.
“Life quickly became an open-air prison after the war,” a young woman from Aleppo told UNFPA. “We [girls] were told not to leave our houses for fear of harrassment, rape and kidnap. I was told that child marriage was my only path to true safety.”
Since conflict erupted in 2011, UNFPA has been on the frontlines, working with partners to deliver life-saving services to women and girls in Syria and in camps and host communities throughout the region. In 2021 alone, as part of its regional response to the crisis, UNFPA delivered sexual and reproductive health services to more than 1.1 million people. Some 600,000 people were reached with services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, including 200,000 adolescent girls, and around 150,000 women were provided with cash assistance.
In 2022, UNFPA is appealing for a total of USD 145.2 million to continue its lifesaving work inside Syria and the five neighbouring countries hosting the majority of Syrian refugees — Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
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