NEW YORK, March 8, 2017 — As the world marks International Women’s Day today, Concern Worldwide has released a report that documents the fact that in conflict, women and girls are the most vulnerable to domestic and sexual abuse, harassment, and forced marriage. The report, entitled Shattered Lives: Protecting civilians in war-torn Syria, a shared responsibility, provides first-hand testimony from women and young girls of the violence and sexual harassment they are exposed to on a daily basis as well as accounts from men and boys regarding other forms of violence and victimization.
It highlights the increased exposure to violence experienced by all civilians in Syria, not only from the onslaught of war but from a variety of everyday threats in a nation traumatized by conflict now deeply ingrained in all aspects of Syrian society.
In concert with the report, Concern Worldwide is urgently calling on UN member states and donors to facilitate full humanitarian access and increase protection funding to help alleviate the suffering of displaced people living in Syria.
Violence has seeped into every aspect of Syrian life to the point where Syrians do not feel safe in any environment, not even in their own homes.
The report contains accounts from a range of civilians who share that they do not feel safe in any environment — at home, school, work, or on the streets. It points to the urgent need for consistent access to populations and more funding for programs aimed at protecting civilians from increasing exposure to violence. It offers a series of recommendations, commitments, and calls to action to bring about an end to this protracted and devastating conflict.
“Shattered Lives” is also timed to the approaching sixth anniversary of the Syrian conflict on March 15th, which only adds urgency to the need to address the $180m shortfall in protection funding for programs. Concern Worldwide is one of many humanitarian organizations calling strongly on wealthier governments to do more to help vulnerable Syrians at risk.
Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley said, “After six years of war, violence is all pervasive in Syria. It is not confined to the bombing, missile attacks, and wanton destruction of cities like Aleppo that we witness through news reports. It has seeped into every aspect of Syrian life to the point where Syrians do not feel safe in any environment, not even in their own homes.
“Despite an increasing recognition that protection of civilians must form a central pillar of humanitarian response, it remains drastically underfunded, with a gap of over 75% of requirements in each of the last two years. The vast shortfall leaves ordinary Syrians more vulnerable to increased levels of violence in their everyday lives.”
“Without sustained access, humanitarian organizations can only provide limited assistance to people in desperate need.”
Mr. MacSorley pointed out that Ireland, home to the organization’s global headquarters, has already provided €70 million to the Syrian crisis response and said that “other much wealthier governments can and must do more, in particular the permanent five Security Council members who hold greater influence and responsibility for the continued conflict.”
Access, Mr. MacSorley added, remains the greatest obstacle to carrying out humanitarian assistance inside Syria.
“Without sustained access, humanitarian organizations can only provide limited assistance to people in desperate need. Concern calls on all parties to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law and allow full and unimpeded access to civilians inside Syria.”
Mr. MacSorley also stressed that humanitarian aid cannot be used as a “substitute for failed diplomacy” and said diplomatic solutions must be found now for the 13.5 million people in Syria who require humanitarian assistance, particularly the 6.3 million people who remain displaced inside the country.
The report provides first-hand testimony from women and young girls of the violence and sexual harassment they are exposed to on a daily basis.
“Steadfast diplomacy is needed at this moment more than ever. Right now, it may seem like the prospect of an end to the bloodshed in Syria is impossible, but the recent disarmament process in Colombia and, closer to home, the peace process in Northern Ireland have shown us that solutions can be found in even the most seemingly intractable of conflicts.”
Concern’s staff spoke to 65 individuals in northern Syria in eight focus group discussions, where they expressed their main protection concerns and proposed initiatives that could mitigate the risks. Approximately 52% of the participants were females and 50% were under 18 years of age. An average of eight individuals attended each discussion.
As the world marks International Women’s Day today, the report unsurprisingly finds that women and girls are the most vulnerable to domestic and sexual abuse, harassment, and forced marriage. It provides first-hand testimony from women and young girls of the violence and sexual harassment they are exposed to on a daily basis.
Among the key recommendations in the report:
- Greater access to education and awareness raising through social media to prevent children from joining armed groups
- Enhanced transparency and accountability to beneficiaries
- Greater focus on providing psychosocial support for girls and women and increasing safe spaces where they can express themselves freely
- Improvement in the livelihoods of households so that children aren’t forced to work in hazardous environments to support families
- Provision of more education, vocational training, and psychosocial support for separated and unaccompanied children
With support from key donors such as Irish Aid, USAID, DFID, ECHO, and others, including generous donations from the public, Concern has been responding to the crisis in Syria for over four years and is also working with refugees in Turkey and Lebanon.
For more information or for interviews, please contact Ed Kenney at 646.532.3123 or [email protected].
Notes to Editors:
- What is humanitarian protection programming? Humanitarian protection is about improving the safety, well-being, and dignity of the affected population. It is born out of recognition that the provision of humanitarian aid is insufficient unless the safety and dignity of affected populations is also assured.
- In 2016, the greatest number of people in need was in the protection sector, yet protection was one of the least funded sectors. Of the $236 million required for protection in the UN’s Humanitarian Needs Overview, only 24%, or $56.5 million, was received, leaving a shortfall of $180 million.
- In 2016, Concern reached at least 390,000 direct beneficiaries in Syria across all sectors. The total population reached by Concern’s response to the Syria crisis through programs in Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon in 2016 was 650,000.
- Concern is locally well recognized as an effective and well-prepared emergency responder, continuing to bring critical life-saving and life-sustaining food and household items to people fleeing from conflict and in their places of refuge.
- Illustrations of Concern beneficiaries in the report were created by artist Marc Corrigan.
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