Press Release

UNFPA calls for urgent funding to protect health and safety of women and girls affected by Syria crisis

29 June 2020

29 June 2020, NEW YORK, USA – Millions of Syrian women and girls continue to suffer from gender-based violence (GBV), harassment and increasingly restricted access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, warns UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, ahead of tomorrow’s Syria conference in Brussels, Belgium.  As the conflict enters its 10th year, UNFPA is appealing for urgent funding to meet critical reproductive health and protection needs of women, adolescent girls and young people affected by the Syria crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. The total funding requirements amount to $137 million for inside Syria and neighbouring countries. 


Of the almost 12 million people in need inside Syria, 5.9 million are women and girls, many of whom report that gender-based violence continues to plague their daily lives, including harassment, family violence and domestic violence. Moreover, assessments from late 2019 show that gender-based violence continues to rise, with new forms of violence increasing in their intensity and effect, such as forced puberty —  which involves injecting young girls with hormones to induce puberty for the purposes of child marriage or sexual exploitation.


“With COVID-19, the risks women and girls face are rising and so is the urgency to provide information and services to protect their health and safety,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “Sexual and reproductive health services and interventions to prevent and respond to gender-based violence are essential. These services must be prioritized. Women and girls’ lives are at stake.”


An estimated half a million women in Syria and the region are pregnant, which brings special risks. “Some pregnant women do not seek maternal healthcare because they are afraid of getting infected with COVID-19. This jeopardizes their lives and their newborns’ lives,” said Dr. Kanem. “We are stepping up efforts to protect health workers and are adapting information and services to meet the urgent needs of pregnant and lactating women, including women who are quarantined.”


In the first quarter of 2020, UNFPA reached more than 809,000 people with sexual and reproductive health services, and more than 361,000 with GBV services inside Syria and the region.


The crisis in Syria is one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. Those in the need of humanitarian assistance continue to suffer the effects of more than nine years of conflict, including disruption of community networks, safety nets and rule of law. The trauma of losing loved ones, suffering violence and displacement, and loss of employment and education are devastating. Even as some parts of Syria stabilize, the crisis has passed a tipping point in terms of generational change, and its effects will continue for many years to come. This is particularly true in the case of women and girls due to the deep-rooted complexity of issues they face on a daily basis. 


Throughout the region in 2019, UNFPA provided: 


  • Life-saving sexual and reproductive health services to nearly 2.4 million people through 254 health facilities, mobile clinics and outreach teams, and 131,000 safe deliveries;
  • GBV services to nearly 1.3 million women and girls;
  • Empowerment programmes with women, girls and youth  through 113 specialized women and girls safe spaces and 22 youth centers.




Throughout Syria, UNFPA will work toward increasing the availability of and access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, emergency obstetric and newborn care, and integration of mental health services into reproductive health facilities. To address GBV, UNFPA will continue expanding the provision of quality comprehensive GBV prevention and response in existing locations and newly accessible areas. These services will be provided via safe spaces, mobile outreach, integrated protocols within reproductive health facilities, and through increased engagement with youth, men and boys. Particular attention will be given to strengthening the resilience of women, girls, and young people through community-based interventions to improve access to integrated sexual and reproductive health  and GBV services, skills building, social cohesion and inclusion of people with disabilities. 


UNFPA will continue to work with the health sector, the UN Country Team, and other coordination bodies on national preparedness and response plans as well as crisis response to find new and innovative programmatic approaches to ensure continuity of service delivery and address the impact of COVID-19. UNFPA will continue to lead the GBV and reproductive health coordination forums in order to facilitate a multi-sectoral response.


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