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 socioeconomic 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 well-being of caregivers, pushing children’s main source of protection to a 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 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to prove their existence, and out of sheer desperation many girls and boys are married off at a young age and withdrawn from school to work, often in dangerous condition.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.
With children accounting for 2.5 million Syrian refugees, child protection remains a core element of the protection response. Child labour continues to be an issue of particular concern, with many Syrian refugee children involved in hazardous work that denies them their rights to education from the age of 12 or younger.
The impact of trauma and the needs of vulnerable groups have been cited in participatory studies and assessments as barriers to increased access to education for adolescents and youth.1 Findings in Jordan, for example, indicate that violence against refugee boys and girls at school, in the classroom and on the playground and, for girls, en route to and from school are contributing to school dropout by adolescents. System issues, vulnerabilities and gender are also contributing factors. Discrimination against girls and young women remains widespread in homes, educational institutions and in the work place. Child marriage is a reality for many girls and restrictions are imposed on others when families ascribe to restrictive traditional norms and traditionally accepted female roles.2 Troublingly, research indicates that the child marriage rate among Syrian refugee adolescent girls has steadily climbed with each year of the crisis, with the latest reports finding that as many as 41 per cent of young displaced Syrian women in Lebanon have married before the age of 18.3 Most of the out-of-school children are in the age range of 12-18 years old and vulnerable to child protection risks like child labour and child marriage. Gaps in civil status and identity documentation, coupled with family separation, can leave forcibly displaced children at risk of statelessness if not resolved.
Children remain highly vulnerable and protection concerns are significant. Nearly half of the population of internally displaced school-aged children—some 335,000 children—are out of school. Children who have lived in areas formerly held by the armed group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant are in need of psychosocial support, vaccinations, support to re-enter school, and safe spaces to play.
Over 150 attacks on schools and personnel were verified and at least 31 schools were used by military forces 490 children were reported to have been recruited by military actors 1,168 grave child rights violations affecting 3,601 children were reported 399 children were reported to have been killed and 664 injured as a result of conflict. Actual numbers believed to be much higher.
NLG Child Protection Technical focal points
1 UNICEF.2017. Participatory Action Research
3 Child marriage is a growing problem for Syrian girls in refugee communities in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. In Jordan, for instance, figures show an increase over time. In 2011, 12% of registered marriages involved a girl under the age of 18. This figure rose to 18% in 2012, 25% in 2013 and 32% in early 2014. See UNICEF, A Study on Early Marriage in Jordan, 2014, available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/jordan/study-early-marriage-jordan-2014. In Lebanon today, 41 % of young displaced Syrian women were married before 18. See Lebanon Crisis Response Plan; UNFPA, New study finds child marriage rising among most vulnerable Syrian refugees, 31 January 2017, available at: http://www.unfpa.org/news/new-study-finds-child-marriage-rising-among-most-vulnerable-syrian-refugees#.
4 Excluding Lebanon
5 Targets reflect only Humanitarian Response Plan, excluding Resilience and Recovery Program