Syria: Women and girls’ rights are a casualty of 12 years of grinding conflict

Now entering its thirteenth year, Syria’s conflict has taken a massive toll on every single Syrian, but in particular women and girls.  

Even before the recent earthquakes, the needs inside Syria were staggering. In 2023, around 15.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Around half are women and girls, including 4.2 million women of reproductive age. The country also has the largest number of internally displaced people in the world at 6.8 million people. The same number have fled the country seeking refuge in Türkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. 

Women and girls’ rights, including access to services that are critical to their health, well-being and lives, have been an unseen casualty of the conflict. Gender-based violence is pervasive, and child marriage and digital violence are on the rise. The large number of female-headed households are particularly vulnerable. As hunger knocks on the door for more than half the country’s population, pregnant women are at particular risk of malnutrition. 

Twelve years of conflict have also crippled the health system – more than half of facilities have closed or are partially functioning and there has been a massive exodus of health workers. In north-west Syria alone the earthquake has left an estimated 133,000 pregnant women, as well as breastfeeding mothers, and menstruating girls, struggling to access essential health care, support and supplies. 

Over the past 12 years, UNFPA has worked to ensure that women and girls can access sexual and reproductive health care and gender-based violence protection services. In 2022, as part of its regional response to the crisis, more than 2.8 million people were reached with services, including around 290,000 adolescent girls. In earthquake-impacted areas in the north-west, UNFPA and partners are distributing essential medicines and supplies to facilities. Mobile teams are traveling to hard-to-reach parts of Aleppo, Lattakia and Hama to reach women and girls in need of protection services.  Dignity kits containing essential hygiene items are also being provided to those in need.

As humanitarian needs continue to increase across the country and region, scaling up the response to the particular and growing needs of already vulnerable women and girls including those who are pregnant and at risk of violence is ever more crucial. As part of its 2023 Regional Syria Crisis Response, which spans the Whole of Syria, Türkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, UNFPA is appealing for $141.2 million to provide reproductive health and protection services. As part of its Whole of Syria Earthquake Response UNFPA is appealing for $24.8 million to reestablish services

Updated on 14 March 2023