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Child protection: Syria crisis regional interagency workshop report

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Background

As the Syria’s crisis enters its fifth year, the conflict shows no sign of abating. Within Syria, child rights violations and the general humanitarian situation continue to worsen. Children are among those most affected by the conflict in Syria. Over half of the people displaced by the Syria crisis are children and every two minutes, another child from Syria becomes a refugee. Within Syria, the conflict continues to have a severe impact on children’s well-being, with children facing violations of their rights on a daily basis including family separation, no access to education, physical and sexual violence, military recruitment, torture and kidnapping, limited access to basic services, lack of birth certificates and the resulting psychosocial distress. For refugees, access to international protection and protection space within a number of countries has become more restricted, and refugees are becoming increasingly economically and socially vulnerable. Large proportions of refugee children are not receiving education, and the longer they remain out of school, the more difficult it will be to resume their education.

All of these factors increase the protection risks for children affected by the Syria crisis – including family violence, child marriage, child labour, recruitment, family separation, abuse, violence, exploitation and discrimination. Although refugee children find safety from conflict and persecution when they arrive in host countries, they and their families often need continued support to overcome the difficulties that they have faced. In addition, during displacement separation from friends, families and neighbors, difficulties to access basic services and increased poverty make it more likely that children are exposed to violence in their homes, communities and schools, will marry early, have to work before the legal age and/or in dangerous and exploitative conditions and are unable to attend school. Refugee children also face risks of detention and other forms of exploitation during their displacement.

Within the Syria crisis, child protection has received significant levels of funding and expertise, although there are variations in the proportion of overall funding that has been provided to child protection across countries and between agencies. For instance in 2015, in 3 of the six countries the funding gap for child protection was less than that for the overall appeal (Syria, Lebanon and Iraq), while in the 3 other countries the funding gap for child protection was greater than the overall appeal (Turkey, Jordan and Egypt). Child protection and education when combined are comparatively more underfunded (at only 42% funded) than the overall appeals (58% funded) primarily because the funding gap for education in all countries was substantially greater than the funding gap for the overall appeal. Varying levels of prioritization of child protection within the overall response combined with different child protection needs and operational contexts have resulted in significant variations in the scale and approach to child protection responses across the various countries affected by the Syria crisis.

The purpose of this workshop was to strengthen the response within the child protection sub-sector by sharing lessons learned, and identifying challenges and ways to address these challenges across countries in light of the protracted nature of the conflict and the continually changing context. The workshop was an initiative co-led by UNICEF and UNHCR Regional Offices, in close consultation with child protection actors and partners from each of the countries affected by the Syria crisis.

While the workshop included also a few participants from Syria, the focus was primarily on the refugee response due to the specificities of the context inside Syria. Hence the more frequent reference to the 3RP framework in this report. Most of the technical discussions were still very relevant to the Syria context and can inform future programming.