The Sustainable Development Goals in Syrian Arab Republic
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in Syria:
05 February 2020
Giving children with a disability in Syria new hope
Damascus, Syria – In the crowded reception area of the Disability and Physical Rehabilitation Centre in Damascus, 13-year old Ali from Ar-Raqqa governorate waits for his name to be called. His father Jaseem waits patiently with him, optimistic that his son will receive the best possible treatment. Ali was injured during a bombardment of his area of Ein Issa city in north-east Syria two years ago while helping his father in their small shop. Shrapnel hit his leg and he was rushed to hospital, where doctors had no choice but to amputate his leg above the knee. Since then, he has been fitted with a series of artificial left legs to accommodate his growing body. The Disability and Physical Rehabilitation Centre in Damascus is one of the WHO-supported public health centres providing free-of-charge prosthetic services. Since 2018, WHO has provided the Disability and Physical Rehabilitation Centre in Damascus and three specialized nongovernmental organizations in the governorates of Damascus and Aleppo with prosthetic components and manufacturing materials for the production of 600 artificial limbs, thanks to the generous financial support of the people of Japan. In 2019, WHO provided more than 13,642 physical rehabilitation sessions and supported almost 170 beneficiaries with artificial limbs through its contracted nongovernmental organizations. “May this centre remain forever,” said Jassem, smiling at his son. “We live almost 450 kilometers away, and we come to the centre many times each year. We’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices to find the money for travel costs, but this is the best prosthetics centre in the country,” he added. After a few minutes, a technician takes Ali to have his leg measured. Ali gets up from his seat with the help of his artificial limb and moves to the measuring room. He waits anxiously as he watches the technicians measure the limbs of other patients. He has outgrown his artificial limb and needs a new one fitted. After being fitted with his new leg, Ali gets up on his feet and dances in a circle, laughing and spinning with joy, his eyes expressing hope and confidence for a better future. “I’m 13 years old and in the sixth grade at school; I want to become a teacher when I grow up,” says Ali with determination and immense self-confidence. “My disability doesn’t hinder my daily activities. I go to school, help my father and I’m very keen on playing football; I can go for long walks with the help of my artificial limb,” he adds proudly. “Ali is just one of dozens of children that the Disability and Physical Rehabilitation Centre helps every day. The centre provides free-of-charge rehabilitation services for all age groups, including the manufacturing of artificial limbs and physiotherapy” says Dr Rafif Dhieh, Head of the Disability and Physical Rehabilitation Center at the Ministry of Health. “We thank WHO for its continuous support that allows us to help people who come to our centre from all over the country,” he adds. “WHO is keen to support the treatment of war injuries, especially for those who have lost their limbs, with a view to reviving their hope of leading a normal and productive life,” says Dr Nima Abid, WHO Representative a.i. in the Syrian Arab Republic, before concluding: “In fact, WHO spares no effort to provide all possible support as part of its humanitarian work to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable people and to trigger a ray of hope for a better future”.
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15 July 2021
“My Hero is You” mental health campaign enhances resilience among parents and children in Syria
One in 10 people in Syria live with a mild to moderate mental health condition. Prolonged exposure to conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to strain the mental well-being of families. In response, WHO Syria and local nongovernmental organizations in Rural Damascus recently launched the “My Hero Is You” campaign, which aims to reduce anxiety and fear associated with COVID-19 among children, and enhance the ability of parents to effectively talk to children about their well-being. The pilot campaign reached 5000 children and included messages about how to cope with stress delivered through a colouring book. The book was adapted to the Syria context and is based on a children’s story, entitled “My Hero is You”, developed by WHO and other members of an United Nations inter-agency committee on mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings. The campaign also included the provision of psychosocial support sessions and focus group discussions, attended by 2000 parents, caregivers and health educators who discussed their concerns, coping mechanisms and support strategies for children experiencing stress in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In recent years, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the role of mental health in people’s overall well-being and, especially, children’s development. In Syria, the conflict was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse economic impact, so the need to address mental health has become even more acute. Thus, our increased focus on mental health aims at listening to communities – to their fears, concerns and experiences of coping with COVID-19 - and empowering them with tools and skills to stay mentally resilient and adapt to a new normal,” said Dr Akjemal Magtymova, WHO Representative in Syria. The campaign, funded by the WHO Regional Solidarity Initiative, was made possible thanks to partnerships with Al-Tal and Al-Qutayfah nongovernmental organizations, members of which received training by WHO prior to the campaign launch. The training was based on the WHO global package and adapted to the Syrian context to tailor it to the current needs of community workers who provide basic psychosocial support services to parents and children. “I am proud to be part of the initiative through which I could teach parents and children how to overcome anxieties and stay positive despite the circumstances surrounding them. It was a joy to observe children reading and colouring the story and imagining themselves travelling around Syria with characters, like Ario, to share with other children what they have learned from the book and what to do to prevent transmission of COVID-19,” said Ahmed Sousan, 30, a volunteer from Rural Damacus who received WHO training. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and work life balance were among the recommendations I received during the psychosocial support sessions, in addition to tips on how to talk to children about COVID-19 related fears. It was important for me to share how the pandemic affected the mental well-being of my family. I felt others shared the same concerns and together we can overcome the challenges of the current times,” said one of the parents at the Al-Tal centre. Following the success of the pilot programme in Rural Damascus, WHO plans to replicate the initiative in Homs, Aleppo and other governorates this year to reach thousands of parents and children in need of mental health support; and in collaboration with the Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean will also share the initiative’s best practices for other countries in the Region to replicate. The original story was produced by WHO Syria and can be found here.
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29 July 2021
2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview: Syrian Arab Republic
Context and Humanitarian Impact Syria remains one of the world’s most complex humanitarian emergencies characterized by ongoing hostilities which have killed hundreds of thousands of people, triggered one of the worst displacement crises of our time, and led to the widespread destruction of civilian and agricultural infrastructure, including homes, schools, health facilities, water supply and irrigation systems. Today, 13.4 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance - a 21 per cent increase compared to 2020 - with needs increasingly being exacerbated by economic decline. The decade-long crisis has inflicted immense suffering on the civilian population who have experienced massive and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including more than 1,350 attacks on education and medical facilities and related personnel, bombardment which has caused over 12 million people to flee their homes, and arbitrary detention, abduction, torture as well as other serious abuses. Almost 12,000 children have been killed or injured since 2011, and 47 per cent of young people have had a member of their immediate family or close friend die. With around half of Syria’s children having known nothing but a lifetime of crisis - 2.45 million of whom were estimated to be out of school in 2020 alone - an entire generation is at risk of being lost. Long-standing and deep-rooted trauma, much of which remains unaddressed, means a mental health crisis looms large. While large-scale hostilities have reduced compared to the peak of the crisis, with frontlines not having shifted in a year, frequent mutual shelling and rocket fire continues to be observed along contact lines, often causing civilian casualties. The economy has experienced irreparable harm since the crisis began, with the gross domestic product having declined by 60 per cent and the government increasingly unable to raise sufficient revenue to subsidize essential commodities such as fuel and bread on which the most vulnerable families rely. The Syrian pound is in virtual freefall having lost 78 per cent of its value since October 2019, while price increases for staple goods are at an all-time high. More than 90 per cent of the population is now estimated to live below the poverty line. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this economic downturn by further reducing already sparse income-generating opportunities in a context where 50 per cent of the work age population is now estimated unemployed, and curtailing women and children’s access to critical services such as reproductive health and malnutrition screening. Remittances, on which millions of Syrians and particularly IDPs rely are understood to have halved, from US$1.6 billion in 2019 to US$800 million in 2020, due to global and regional economic contraction. COVID-19 has also impacted an already debilitated health system in which half of health facilities are partially or non-functional. Humanitarian Conditions and Needs Continued civilian casualties and forced displacement due to ongoing hostilities, in addition to reduced access to already degraded basic services, limited and inadequate housing and shelter options, and a wide array of specific protection risks and concerns continue to cause and perpetuate humanitarian needs among the population. While hostility-induced displacement in early 2020 generated additional needs amongst the population in Syria for internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and host communities, particularly in North-west Syria (NWS), the ripple effects of the economic downturn - including the loss of income and livelihoods, sharply reduced purchasing power and resulting financial unaffordability of food and other basic goods - have exacerbated living conditions for people who were already in humanitarian need, and have tipped previously less affected segments of the population into humanitarian need, including food insecurity, across the country. The crisis continues to have a gendered impact, with women and adolescent girls paying a high price for harmful and discriminatory gender norms, including gender-based violence, while men and boys face elevated risks linked to arbitrary detention, forced conscription and explosive ordnance, among others. The economic deterioration has financially squeezed families further. Eighty-two per cent of assessed households in Syria report a significant deterioration in their ability to meet basic needs since August 2019, due mainly to price increases and loss of income. With the WASH, health and education infrastructure considered poorly or non-functional in 48 per cent of all sub-districts, access to basic services is severely hampered and increasingly unaffordable. This is particularly the case for over 1.9 million IDPs sheltering in informal settlements, planned camps and collective shelters, which offer inadequate protection against the elements and increase the risk of epidemic-prone diseases among this population. At the same time millions of people across Syria continue to live in damaged housing, particularly along former frontlines, with those paying rent now struggling more than before to do so. Facing deteriorated living standards, families are increasingly adopting harmful coping mechanisms. Seventy-one per cent of households and 75 per cent of female-headed households have taken on more debt since August 2019. Twenty-eight per cent of families now adopt ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ food related coping strategies, including withdrawing children from school to have them work instead, selling property, migrating due to lack of food and early child marriage. Twenty-two per cent of assessed communities report child labour as frequently occurring, while child marriage of young and adolescent girls (12-17 years) is reported by 18 per cent of assessed communities as a very common issue. Worsening living standards and an increase in harmful coping strategies have led additional segments of the population to develop life-threatening physical and mental health needs. These include a 57 per cent increase in the number of food insecure people to 12.4 million (up from 7.9 million in early 2020). Of these, 1.27 million people are considered severely food insecure – twice as many as in early 2020. In line with this trend, malnutrition rates continue to peak, with more than 500,000 children under the age of five chronically malnourished and 90,000 acutely malnourished. Mental trauma is widespread and under-assessed but certain to have long-term implications across all population groups. Twenty- seven per cent of households report signs of psychological distress in boys and girls, almost double the 2020 figure (14 per cent). Critical protection needs persist and have been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including gender-based violence (GBV), with women and girls across the country reporting that it has become a feature of everyday life. One in two people in Syria is estimated to be at risk of explosive ordnance; needs for humanitarian mine action interventions, particularly survey and clearance activities, are therefore significant but currently not met at scale. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the country with nearly 47,000 cases confirmed in Syria, including at least 1,972 deaths as of mid-March 2021, further straining the health system and reducing people's access to both emergency and non-emergency care. In 2021, the increased scope and inter-linked nature of humanitarians needs among the population in Syria requires a comprehensive response across all sectors to save lives, protect people and prevent further deprivation. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.
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