“Hardest to reach, most at risk

These words describe the tens of thousands of women and children who occupy Syria’s ‘widow camps’[2]. Despite extreme vulnerability to violence, this group are largely excluded from humanitarian aid[3]. With our partner, Maram Foundation for Relief and Development (Maram), we are doing all we can to address this need.

The conflict in Syria has torn thousands of families apart, leaving many without a breadwinner. In northwest Syria, tens of thousands widows and their children live as refugees in ‘widow camps’. In these camps, violence – physical, verbal, sexual – against women and children is an extreme issue[4].

Widow camps are isolated areas for women and their children who do not have a male partner, having either passed away or abandoned them. In North-West Syria there are currently 28 accessible widow camps. Here, 95% of women feel depressed or hopeless[5]. They are restricted in movement, with no ‘right’ to move freely[6]. This leaves them unable to work to provide an income, with many having no choice but to resort to ‘survival sex’ to support themselves and their family[7].

Girls in the camps are often denied an education and forced into child marriage[8]. Boys are deemed grown when they are older than 11 and forced to leave the camps, leaving them highly vulnerable to recruitment into armed groups. With limited/ no education, for many, this is their only option.[9]

Despite these conditions, access to humanitarian aid is grossly limited for those in widow camps. Over 80% of people in widow camps lack access to basic services, including medical care, shelter, or protection[10]. According to a UNFPA report, widows are at the greatest risk of being excluded from humanitarian aid[11].

Working with our partner, Maram, we are working to provide child protection (CP) and gender-based violence (GBV) services within widow camps in North-West Syria. These services are vital and a part of our commitment to ensuring we are helping the most vulnerable. If you can, please consider supporting our work and donate now. Whatever you can give will make a huge difference.

Written by Emily Marriott, edited by Hetty Cane

[1] https://www.wvi.org/sites/default/files/2022-04/WVSR%202022%20report_%20widow%20camps%20_%20FINAL16April%202022_0.pdf

[2] https://www.wvi.org/sites/default/files/2022-04/WVSR%202022%20report_%20widow%20camps%20_%20FINAL16April%202022_0.pdf

[3] https://www.wvi.org/sites/default/files/2022-04/WVSR%202022%20report_%20widow%20camps%20_%20FINAL16April%202022_0.pdf

[4] https://bonyan.ngo/child-protection/widows-and-orphans/

[5] https://www.wvi.org/newsroom/syria-crisis-response/world-focuses-ukraine-crisis-women-and-children-syrias-forgotten

[6] Syria Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment (MSNA) 2022.

[7] https://bonyan.ngo/child-protection/widows-and-orphans/

[8] 1, https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/north-west-syria-number-suicide-attempts-anddeaths-rise-sharply 99% as per the Syria Relief’s 2011 report, p:11 https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ptsd%20report%20 -%20final.pdf

[9] https://www.wvi.org/publications/report/world-vision-european-union/women-and-children-syrias-widow-camps-hardest-reach

[10] https://www.wvi.org/newsroom/syria-crisis-response/world-focuses-ukraine-crisis-women-and-children-syrias-forgotten

[11] https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/voices_2021_-_final_180521_eng.pdf