The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called on the international community to prioritize the health and rights of women and girls impacted by the Syrian crisis as the Brussels VII conference on supporting Syria and the region takes place.
More than a decade of conflict and instability have sharply increased women’s and girls’ risks and vulnerabilities to multiple forms of physical and sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse. As women and girls’ needs have soared, the health system has continued to deteriorate, cutting their access to lifesaving reproductive health and protection services. This year brought unparalleled challenges as the economic crisis spiralled and earthquakes wrought a wave of destruction in the north-west.
As women and girls struggle to claim their rights, assessments show that their voices are consistently underrepresented in the humanitarian space, resulting in interventions that fall short of meeting their needs.
UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said: “Women in Syria have had enough. They are exhausted, they struggle to access basic health and protection services, and their voices are rarely heard. Delivering on women’s and girls’ rights must be at the heart of international efforts to bring Syria back from the brink towards a peaceful, more sustainable future.”
Funding for the Syria regional response is dwindling, while needs are not. Mid-year, UNFPA’s 2023 appeal for $182.3m to fund its regional Syria crisis response is only 36 percent funded. The funding gap will limit UNFPA’s ability to deliver lifesaving reproductive health and protection services across Syria, Türkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
Laila Baker, UNFPA Arab States Regional Director, said: “As women and girls in Syria and the region endure one of the world’s most complex humanitarian and protection emergencies, the consequences of underfunding are both catastrophic and far-reaching. Throughout the crisis region, women and girls lack adequate access to essential sexual and reproductive health services and rights, in addition to facing ever-growing risks of gender-based violence, which has nearly become normalized after many years of conflict.”
UNFPA has been responding to the needs of women and girls since the onset of the crisis. In 2022, UNFPA delivered sexual and reproductive health services to more than 2 million people, and reached more than 815,000 (219,000 of them adolescents) with services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Regional impact assessments conducted over several years have consistently shown how critical these services are –95% of people who accessed services in 2022described UNFPA-supported facilities as “absolutely essential.”