Protecting women and girls’ dignity is a life-saving need

Publié: 27 mai 2014 15:34 CET

By Raefah Makki, IFRC in Beirut

It’s a Saturday morning in Rachaya Al Wadi, a Lebanese village in the district of Rachaya in the Bekaa governorate in Lebanon. Syrian women of different ages who fled to this part of the country started to gather very early at the Lebanese Red Cross designated distribution site.

Salwa is just one of the one million refugee who have fled to Lebanon since the conflict has started in Syria. Women and children make up three-quarters of the 2.7 million Syrians hosted in the region. Nearly 387,000 refugees are living in host communities and informal settlements in South Lebanon.

Salwa is in her mid 30s, a mother of 5 girls and one boy holds her son’s hand who accompanied her to the distribution. “I was very happy when I received the phone call from the Lebanese Red Cross volunteers yesterday. They asked me to come today for the distribution”, said Salwa.

Even if a majority of Syrian refugees still benefit from a shelter in host communities, the rapidly escalating displacement crisis has led to the creation of hundreds informal tented settlements. The general living conditions of refugees in informal tented settlements and unfinished buildings such as sanitary and hygienic conditions are increasing the risk of diseases among the most vulnerable. Access to primary and secondary health remains a top concern for thousands of families.

“It’s not the first time I come here, we have received before food aid from the Lebanese Red Cross. These people are making a big difference in our lives”, said Salwa. “I am eager to learn how my daughters and I can benefit from this women’s kit”. She added.

As part of the emergency response, with the support from the government of Japan, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Lebanese Red Cross Society are providing Women’s Emergency kits for women and girls of reproductive age.

“We go thoroughly through each item of the kit to make sure we explain to the Syrian women the usage and the importance of these kits”, said Andera Choufi, a Lebanese Red Cross volunteer.

The kits include basic necessities that displaced women and girls require to maintain feminine hygiene, acceptable level of respect in their daily lives, as well as other items aiming at reinforcing their protection.

“Women’s emergency kits (WEKs) can also serve as first entry points for more protection and health related interventions such as addressing Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and Reproductive Health”, said Dr Hosam Faysal, IFRC MENA Distaster Management coordinator.

“We are planning with the Lebanese Red Cross to reach 5300 women through this joint project with the support of the government of Japan. Protection and promotion of a culture of peace and nonviolence are as essential as the provision of other life-saving support to the affected people”, added Faysal.

Reports of interpersonal violence being committed against boys, girls, men and women continue to come out of Lebanon and other surrounding countries.  In a 2012 report, the IFRC and the Canadian Red Cross stated that the increased risk of violence against women and girls during and after disasters was 301%. This is due to a variety of factors, including a breakdown of social systems, separation of families, women and men having to take on tasks outside of their usual gender roles, conflict-related trauma and harmful coping mechanisms, and increased stress on already strained local resources.

Since the beginning of the influx of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the Lebanese Red Cross has provided critical support to the people in need, mainly in transporting urgent cases of wounded Syrians crossing the borders through its emergency medical teams as well as maintaining the dignity of the families through the provision of food and necessary nonfood items through its disaster management unit to the families who are either hosted by the local communities or residing in informal settlements across the country.

The Lebanese Red Cross is working with the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners to increase its support mainly in addressing Sexual and Gender Based Violence interpersonal violence prevention system with host communities and Syrian refugees.