Shattered Lives: Understanding the Mental Health and Psychosocial Needs of Women and Children in Northwest Syria

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More than a decade of war in Syria has exposed women, girls, men and boys to violence, trauma and multiple displacement along with extremely harsh living conditions. This is the case in the northwest of the country where 2.8 million Syrians remain internally displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance. Half of those living in this region are reported to be girls and boys; with the wide majority experiencing symptoms of PTSD after being born and raised in conflict setting. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 10 people are living with a mild to moderate mental health condition in Syria, while one in 30 are likely to suffer from more severe conditions that can have a crippling impact on their daily lives. Meanwhile, an estimated 75% of already vulnerable persons living with mental health conditions receive no treatment at all. As a result, a protracted mental health emergency is unravelling with worrying symptoms particularly observed among displaced women, girls and boys.

Half of Syria’s children have known nothing but violence and war, growing up in one of the most dangerous places for a child. They live in constant fear for their lives and are at constant risk of grave violations being inflicted on them. Child casualties are among the highest in modern conflicts; attacks on education and healthcare are the most consistently pervasive globally since 2014. UNICEF estimates that one child has been injured or killed every eight hours on average during the past 10 years of conflict. Domestic violence, forced and early child marriage are also prevalent among women and girls in particular, while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated their vulnerabilities and mental health. As a result a higher number of girls are being forced into early marriage in the northwest of Syria. Meanwhile, the protection and health sectors remain largely underfunded. According to a recent October 2021 funding gap analysis for northwest Syria, only 9% of required funds were secured for the health response so far, with more than 2.5 million people affected by funding shortages, compared to 66% of protection funds being secured with 0.6 million people affected by funding gaps.