11 July 2014

A report published this week by UNHCR sheds light on the struggles of Syria’s refugee women who are taking care of their families alone, as their husbands were killed, captured or are still in Syria. According to the UN Agency, 145,000 Syrian refugee families in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan are headed by women alone.

The report highlights how women struggle to make ends meet and to take care of their families in run-down, overcrowded homes, insecure makeshift shelters and camps.

 “My role as a woman has completely changed. I was independent and strong in Syria,” says Iman, a 42 year old mother living in Egypt. “I was free. When I got here my life went down to below zero.”

 Without regular income, women heading the household alone are also at risk of relying on “negative coping mechanisms” such as child labour, preventing their children from attending school. Lack of money is also forcing refugees to live in unsafe overcrowded environments, without basic amenities or security. Often families live in homes which lack electricity, a locking door, or a private bathroom.

“They have run out of money, face daily threats to their safety and are being treated as outcasts for no other crime than losing their men to a vicious war. It’s shameful. They are being humiliated for losing everything,” stated Commissioner Antonio Guterres.

UNHCR stresses that many of the communities hosting Syrian refugees are facing serious difficulties on their own and women interviewed in the report stated that they had faced tensions within the host communities. For instance, harassment against women in Egypt has been a great source of anxiety for Syrians, UNHCR stresses.

Since the beginning of the conflict, 2.8 million people have fled Syria – nearly four in five are women and children.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 July 2014.
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