2018 Whole of Syria Child Protection Operational Strategy
1. 2018 Child Protection Needs in Syria
In its seventh year, the conflict in Syria continues to take a huge toll on the lives of children. Against a backdrop of violence, continuous displacements and worsening socio-economic conditions, children in Syria endure multiple protection risks and violations of their rights on a daily basis. Grave child rights violations remain a critical concern with countless children killed and injured through persistent use of explosive weapons in civilian areas, recruitment and use of children by all parties to the conflict, torture, detention, abduction, sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access particularly to children living in UN-declared besieged areas. The crisis has also impacted on the wellbeing of caregivers, pushing children’s main source of protection to breaking point. Children endure violence in their homes, schools and communities, often from those entrusted with their care. Children face constant risks associated with explosive hazards, lack of civil documentation to prove their existence, and out of sheer desperation many girls and boys are married off at a young age and withdrawn from school to work, often in dangerous condition. This toxic environment leaves many girls and boys deprived of their psychosocial needs and in a position of profound and prolonged distress.
According to data collected as part of the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview: 3.3 million children are exposed to the risk of explosive hazards. Children are reported to be exposed to threats while playing, mistaking unexploded weapons for toys. Many children are involved in economic activities that are mentally, physically or socially dangerous and which limit – or deny – their basic rights. In 82 per cent of assessed communities, respondents reported that child labour-including in its worst forms- was an issue of concern. Depletion of livelihoods and family separation are reportedly primary causes of child labour, along with lack of educational opportunities. Recruitment and use of children has increased sharply – in 47 per cent of assessed communities, respondents reported that it was an issue of concern. Children are used in frontline combat roles, receive military training and serve in support roles. Payment of salaries, ideology and family or community influence continue to be incentives. Separation from caregivers was reported by respondents in 52 per cent of assessed communities.
Children are separated for both accidental and deliberate reasons including due to death of caregivers and economic reasons. These children are at heightened risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Child marriage was reported as an issue of concern in 69 per cent of surveyed communities. Girls and boys are married early as a household negative coping strategy to “mitigate” protection risks and to respond to the worsening economic situation of families. Civil Documentation/Birth Registration remains a major challenge for children in Syria, compromising their access to basic services and rights. In 83 per cent of assessed communities, respondents reported that the lack/loss of documentation was an issue of concern. Psychosocial distress remains a major issue of concern for both children and caregivers. Children’s experiences of violence in their community, schools and homes, along with repeated displacements, loss of or separation from family members and friends, dramatic deterioration in living conditions, divisions in their communities, and lack of basic social services is profoundly affecting children’s wellbeing and development.