Middle East and North Africa: Protection of Women and Children Snapshot (October 2018) [EN/AR]

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 18 Nov 2018


The conflict in Libya between the different armed groups, ongoing since 2014, has included indiscriminate attacks that target civilians and civilian objects, denial of access to health care, violations of children and women’s rights, and it continues to take a toll on the people of Libya. Continuous key protection concerns include various forms of gender-based violence (GBV), trafficking and smuggling of human beings, unlawful killings, arbitrary and conditions of detention centres by the parties in this conflict. Protection of families trapped between frontlines during such events as the renewed conflict in Tripoli in September remain another challenge for the humanitarian community. Protection of families trapped in the old city continue to be a concern in Derna.

Along with people living in conflict-affected areas, migrants, refugees, women and children are among the most vulnerable groups being prioritized by the humanitarian community throughout the response activities in 2018. Unaccompanied children, child labour and child recruitment by fighting groups are among the most worrying protection concerns in the humanitarian community. Adolescent girls continue to be at risk of early or forced marriage as part of coping mechanism for the most marginalized groups.

occupied Palestinian territory

The protracted protection crisis in the oPt has marked its 52nd year in June 2018. The Humanitarian Response Plan 2018 targeted 1.9 million Palestinians identified as the most vulnerable to conflict and violence, displacement and denial of access to livelihoods, among other threats.

In the Gaza Strip, poverty, unemployment and food insecurity are increasing, as are other core drivers of humanitarian need. Power cuts of 18-20 hours a day impede the delivery of basic services and cripple productive activity. Hospitals, water and sewage treatment facilities, and solid waste collection services are almost completely reliant on UN-coordinated emergency fuel to maintain essential services. This has led to frustrations among all, especially youth, reflected in the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations along the perimeter fence with Israel, ongoing since 30 March: as of end September more than 200 Palestinians were killed during the demonstrations and other incidents, including 30 children, and over 22,000 have been injured. The large number of casualties among unarmed demonstrators has raised concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli troops. Exposure of children to violence along with media reports of the militarization of children are also of concern. The impacts of the ‘Great Return March’ is further intensifying the situation of families affected making the living conditions of women worse and increasing the risk being subjected to GBV.


The Syria crisis has had a pervasive impact on the lives of children in Syria. Exposure to violence, situations of displacement and extreme poverty defined by chronic deprivation have defined children’s’ experience of the crisis, contributing to specific daily needs. In the first half of 2018, the MRM4Syria verified some 1,300 grave violations against children, including 792 instances of the killing and maiming of children and 310 cases of child recruitment. Since the inception of the MRM4Syria in 2013, reports of each violation recorded by the mechanism have increased in frequency year-on-year. Attacks on education have also continued to be reported with the MRM4Syria verifying 85 attacks on schools and education in the first six months of 2018. At the same time, the threat of hostilities in certain areas of the country continues to contribute to temporary school closures and high dropout rates while the upheaval caused by displacement and limited absorption capacity in already overburdened host communities can present a barrier to IDP children accessing quality education. The Syria crisis also continues to disproportionately impact women and girls, with indications that gender-based violence, particularly sexual harassment, early/forced marriage and domestic violence continue to pervade the lives of women and girls in Syria inside and outside the home, resulting in very few spaces where women and girls feels safe.


Despite overall improvements in internal security in Iraq in 2018, for both returnees and IDPs, humanitarian needs remain. Returnees families continue to face risks posed by explosive remnants of war (ERW) and damage to homes, schools and health centres. Limited access to public services and livelihood opportunities are reported as obstacles to recovery.

Humanitarian actors in Iraq continue to make protection central to their operations. A population in particular need of attention is those with perceived affiliations to extremist groups, especially women and children. Many Iraqis—IDPs, returnees and host community members—have been subject to allegations by military and security actors, civilian authorities, and tribal leaders and that they, or one or more of their family members, are affiliated with extremist groups. As a result of such allegations, affected individuals and families have been subjected to discriminatory denial of humanitarian assistance or government services, movement restrictions, and widespread social discrimination. They have also faced harassment, extortion and physical violence; gender-based violence, and including sexual exploitation and abuse. Humanitarian actors are concentrating on how to best strengthen the centrality of protection around this vulnerable population. Distinguishing between legitimate security concerns and promoting the return and/or integration of these women and children is important to prevent future radicalisation.


Four years into the conflict, around 22 million people, 75 per cent of the population in Yemen, require some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Women and children, particularly girls, are among the most vulnerable. More than 3.2 million women and girls face increased health and protection risks, with around 60,000 women at risk of sexual violence. An estimated 1.1 million pregnant and lactating women are malnourished, as lack of humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas and difficulties obtaining food and medical supplies continue.

Their vulnerability has further increased during the last reporting area due the devaluation of the Yemeni rial, blockades on imports and rising prices for basic commodities. Around 1.8 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, including 400,000 with severe acute malnutrition (SAM). In Al Hudaydah, new reports indicated that more than 25 percent of children are malnourished. Around 900,000 people in the governorate are desperate for food, and 90,000 pregnant women are at enormous risk.

Access to protection and education continue to be among the main issues faced by the children of Yemen. At the same time, the long-lasting war is causing severe mental health issues for the children of Yemen, and more psychosocial support is needed. With the lack of sufficient psychiatrists in the country (in 2017, WHO had reordered only 40 psychiatrists), the war will have effects on the people of Yemen for generations.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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