Whole of Syria Child Protection AOR 2017 Operational Strategy

Manual and Guideline
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2017 Child Protection Needs in Syria

The relentless violence and dire humanitarian situation in Syria are having a devastating impact on the protection of children of all ages. Grave child rights violations continue unabated with countless deaths and injuries due to the persistent use of explosive weapons in civilian areas. Children endure multiple protection risks and violations of their rights on a daily basis, including family separation, physical and sexual violence, military recruitment, torture, kidnapping, detention, limited access to basic services, child marriage, engagement in hazardous forms of labour, lack of birth certificates, and psychosocial distress.

Continuous displacement, exposure to violence, deepening poverty and the persistent lack of access to even the most basic necessities, notably in besieged areas, are taking a huge toll on children and causing multiple deprivations of rights.

According to 2017 HNO data, recruitment and use of children, particularly adolescent boys, is widespread with 90% of surveyed sub-districts indicating its occurrence and 56% identifying an increase in the previous three months. Child labour is reported in 82% of surveyed sub-districts, including in its most dangerous and hazardous forms, particularly affecting boys – e.g. begging, smuggling, scavenging, child recruitment and use in the conflict. Depletion of livelihoods and family separation are reportedly primary causes of child labour, along with lack of educational opportunities. Separation from caregivers is reported in 72% of surveyed sub-districts, including as a result of separation during displacement, parents going missing or being in detention, death of parents. These children are at heightened risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Child marriage is reported in 85% of surveyed sub-districts, as a household negative coping strategy to “mitigate” protection risks and to respond to the worsening economic situation of families. Explosive hazards are a concern in 88% of assessed sub-districts. 89% of people with injuries due to explosive weapons face physical impairment with 17% of direct victims injured by explosive weapons being children. Boys are reportedly at particular risk. Psychosocial distress remains a major issue of concern for both children and caregivers as the violence intensifies and the crisis becomes more protracted. Main sources of stress for girls and boys include: fear of war-related sounds, fear of checkpoints, pervasive felling of insecurity, parental stress and family violence, uncertainty about the future, lack of personal agency and diminished sense of self, lack of educational opportunities. Toxic stress may result in significant lifelong consequences for children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.

It is important to note that child protection issues are closely interconnected and compounding, rarely do children experience child protection issues in isolation, e.g. an unaccompanied child may face increased risk of being engaged in hazardous labour, and in turn, that child is more likely to experience other forms of violence and psychosocial distress.