The COVID-19 outbreak increased the risk of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) around the world. This trend was even more evident in countries where strict lockdowns have been put in place to prevent the spread of the virus such as Lebanon. Women and girls’ sense of safety was highly affected by COVID-19 in Lebanon. Half of the interviewees in a survey conducted in May 2020 by the SGBV TF stated that they had been feeling less safe since the outbreak of COVID-19 in their communities and homes.
The pandemic not only had increased the risk of GBV but also had an impact on the implementation of GBV programming in the country. For this reason, in December 2021, the SGBV Task Force launched a survey among its members to collect information on their perceptions about the impact of COVID-19 on GBV prevention and response activities in Lebanon.
The objective of the survey was to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on GBV programming in 2020 and inform the sector programming in 2021 to reduce the negative effects of the current pandemic on the quality of GBV programming.
The areas of GBV programming most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were GBV community outreach, women and girl’s safe spaces activities and case management.
Despite the challenges faced by SGBV actors, 84% of the respondents in the survey confirmed that their organizations were able to provide support to urgent and high-risk cases.
The number of people reached with SGBV services was affected by the pandemics: 50% of the respondents stated that their organization was not able to reach the same number of people in need reached in 2019 (with the comparable level of resources and funding).
The specialized services that were more challenging to be accessed for survivors in 2020 were safe houses, legal assistance, and clinical management of rape. For their nature, some specialized services such as health and legal services are often provided only in person and because of the lockdowns, women and girls have faced more challenges than usual in accessing those services.
The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the way SGBV actors monitor their programs because of the limitations imposed to field visits and direct supervision of staff.
44% of the participants in the survey confirmed that why would continue some activities in remote modality even when the situation will improve, in particular, awareness raising and capacity building activities.
Despite the difficulties to access remote activities, GBV actors were able to reach some groups that usually are more difficult to reach, including people with disabilities.