BEIRUT, Lebanon (March 12, 2018) — “The last seven years feel like 20,” says Fatmeh, a 23 year-old Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, referring to the war in her home country that is dragging into its eighth year. Fatmeh is one of millions of Syrians who have been left homeless — inside and outside their country — as the conflict wreaks havoc throughout Syria. Civilians pay the heaviest price, as they are killed, wounded and displaced daily.
One-quarter of Syria’s pre-war population has crossed the border, and inside the country more than 6 million people have been displaced. Around 100 people, on average, have been killed each day since the start of the conflict in 2011. Hundreds of thousands are living under siege, in places like Eastern Ghouta, where entire families have been going without food or clean water for weeks now, a few miles from Syria’s capital Damascus.
‘For millions of men, women and children, the past seven years have meant losing their home, moving from one place to the other in search of safety, sometimes beyond Syria’s borders,” says Wouter Schaap, CARE’s country director in Syria. “When will they be able to go back? No one can tell. They feel their lives have been destroyed and the whole world has abandoned them.”
Fatmeh left Syria with her husband to find safety in neighboring Lebanon. “Our house was destroyed, my brother was killed, my mother and I were separated from our other family members. What did we do to deserve this?” she says.
As the conflict enters its eighth year, women have been hit hard. With the Syrian army and its allies, as well as non-state armed groups, fighting on the ground and unprecedented violence in the country, many women have lost a husband, son or brother to the war. This has shifted the customary male role of heading the household to many women in Syria, who are increasingly assuming both the role of breadwinner and caregiver. According to the UN, one in three households in Syria is headed by a woman. Women and girls constitute more than half of the 13.1 million people who are in need in Syria.
“Syrian women have become more vulnerable due to the war, displacement and the added economic pressure of having to provide for their families,” says Dr. Maria Alabdeh, executive director of Women Now for Development, a Syrian organization supported by CARE. “But they have also taken on this new responsibility and need the proper support. We are still working with women, who have been forced into shelters and bunkers, as they continue supporting women and girls in their communities in a dignified way.”
“Women’s rights have seen some positive changes in the past seven years in the Middle East,” says Schaap. “Tunisia passed a law against domestic violence; Saudi Arabia is finally allowing women to drive; Lebanon amended an unjust law linked to women’s rape; Jordan appointed its first female Supreme Court judge. And in Syria? Women slipped further into poverty, violence and lawlessness. Yet, they show great courage every single day when they strive to keep their loved ones safe and alive.”
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than seven decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Last year, CARE worked in 93 countries to reach 63 million people, including more than 14 million through emergency response and humanitarian aid. Learn more at www.care.org
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