Skip to content

Women in Desperate Need of Assistance in Northeast Syria and Iraq

Displacement figures reaching close to 180,000 more than two weeks after the escalation of violence in northeast Syria

AMMAN/DOHUK, 24 October 2019 – More than two weeks after the escalation of violence in northeast Syria, women, children, and families continue to be uprooted from their homes, with displacement figures reaching close to 180,000, according to the United Nations. While civilians continue to bear the brunt of the recent fighting, women and girls are the most affected, reporting psychological distress, lack of medical care and need for essential items, including warmer clothing as the winter approaches.

"Tens of thousands of civilians are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Many women in northeast Syria have been separated from their husbands, sons, or brothers and are escaping the fighting with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the children on their arms. They are especially vulnerable and in need of protection, psycho-social support and services that address their specific needs," said Nirvana Shawky, CARE’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Displaced women do not have access to medical assistance, as functioning healthcare facilities are overwhelmed with emergency cases. Pregnant women are at risk and unable to reach doctors or hospitals for medical assistance. Ambulances can only provide services to births and other emergency cases. With people sheltering in the corridors and rooms of public buildings, women and girls are also in need of privacy for their personal hygiene, dignity, and well being. Most of them have to walk outside shelters, alone in the night to reach a toilet, posing a risk to their safety.

"We are visiting collective shelters hosting displaced people, including schools, and seeing many women who are unable to cope with the situation. They are under a lot of psychological stress and we are seeing increased depression and anxiety cases among women and girls. This is especially affecting young and pregnant women, many of whom have become displaced for the first time. The women I see cry whenever we meet. They tell me all they want is to go back home," said Lamia*, an aid worker for CARE in northern Syria.

Outside Syria, the situation is becoming increasingly dire in Iraq, as about a thousand refugees from Syria cross into the country on a daily basis. CARE is stepping up its humanitarian operations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. A first priority will be the provision of safe drinking water, basic sanitary infrastructure, waste management, and hygiene support in a refugee camp near the border.

"Safe drinking water and securing toilets to ensure the dignity and safety for women and girls is an absolute must at the moment," says Wendy Barron, CARE’s Iraq Country Director. "Another very important need we have seen in the past is to find ways to provide safety and adequate support for women and girls in this vulnerable situation."

In the past months, CARE has consecutively warned of the consequences of decreased humanitarian funding for Iraq. This call is now being reemphasized by Barron, "The Kurdistan Region of Iraq already hosts nearly 230,000 refugees from Syria in addition to more than one million Iraqis who are displaced within their borders. Local host communities are stretched to their limits and the situation in many camps is very difficult. Aid agencies like CARE are concerned that funding will continue to decrease while needs are obviously on the rise," says Barron.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Notes to editors:

  • CARE is assisting vulnerable and displaced people in northeast Syria by providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene promotion. CARE is carrying out much-needed distributions of hygiene kits and winter clothes and providing psycho-social support, including psychological first aid to those immediately affected by the violence. CARE plans to reach 20,000 people in northeast Syria with life-saving and emergency assistance by the end of October.
  • CARE has been providing aid in Syria since 2014, and has reached more than 4.5 million people so far. Our work is focused on food security, livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment, shelter, water and sanitation, maternal and reproductive health support, and psycho-social support for people in crisis.
  • In Iraq, CARE is stepping up its efforts to respond to the needs of displaced people from Syria who fled recent violence in the northeast of the country aiming to reach more than 600 households with water and sanitation facilities, hygiene kits as well as garbage collection services. Together with its partners CARE also plays a crucial role in camps for internally displaced people in Iraq keeping toilets, showers, and washing facilities clean as well as providing medical supplies and nutritional supplements to pregnant and lactating women and their babies. As of June 2019, CARE has reached more than 340,000 people with humanitarian assistance.

CARE has spokespeople available. For media inquiries, please contact:

  • Lama Alsafi, CARE Canada
    media@care.ca | 613-228-5641
  • Fatima Azzeh, Senior Communications Manager for the Syria Crisis
    Fatima.azzeh@care.org I +962 79 711 7414.
  • Sabine Wilke, Director Communications and Advocacy, CARE Germany
    wilke@care.de I + 49 (0) 151 147 805 98
  • Ninja Taprogge, Media Officer, CARE Germany
    taprogge@care.de I + 49 (0) 151 701 674 97

About CARE Canada

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE develops solutions alongside women and girls in developing countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty and out of crisis. CARE stands with women and girls around the world in economic empowerment. We bring women, girls, and their communities together to challenge inequality while facing issues like food insecurity, climate change, and emergency relief in times of crisis or disaster. In 2018, CARE worked in 95 countries and reached more than 56 million people around the world.

To learn more about CARE Canada, visit www.care.ca.