SYRIA: Protecting women & families vital as bombing continues

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Syrian mother and child under bombing
A woman holding her two children moves quickly as she tries to find safety as bombs continue to drop on civilians in Aleppo on December 16, 2013. Image: AleppoNow/AFP

(WNN) Aleppo, SYRIA ARAB REPUBLIC, WESTERN ASIA: As Syrian women and their families reel following the barrage of bombs dropped on the city of Aleppo those who are able to leave the region are trying to get out. In recent weeks, up to Christmas Day, over 400 deaths have been recorded as over 28 children have been killed.

Joining the chorus of voices speaking out against the violence in Syria is United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

“All civilians must be protected in any situation,” says Secretary General Ban.

Women and children are part of the citizenship who have been caught in the attacks as barrel bombs, shrapnel and oil-filled explosives are dropped by aircraft. Aleppo is not the only city to suffer from the ongoing plague of conflict. Damascus and Homs have also seen ongoing violence since the conflict began in March 2011.

To date 61 journalists, 28 in 2013 alone, have also been killed as they attempted to cover the crisis from both sides in Syria. Seven percent of those reporters killed while on the job have been women journalists.

U.S. born Marie Colvin, known by those who worked closely with her as one of the most fearless and experienced women journalists in the world, was killed with photojournalist Rémi Ochlik as their press office was shelled by Syraian government forces. Along with Colvin the following months into 2013, as two other young women journalists Mona al-Bakkour and Yara Abbas along with video photojournalist Mika Yamamoto were caught in the crossfire between Syrian government and Syrian rebel forces.

Before she died in her last dispatch for the British daily, The Sunday Times, Colvin outlined the stark desperate and deteriorating conditions for women of Syria who had been left behind as widows in the city of Homs on February 19, 2012. Little did she know at the time that she too, like all the others who lost their lives, would become a human tragedy of conflict.

“They call it the widows’ basement. Crammed amid makeshift beds and scattered belongings are frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs, the Syrian city shaken by two weeks of relentless bombardment,” wrote Colvin in her story for The Sunday Times.

“Among the 300 huddling in this wood factory cellar in the besieged district of Baba Amr is 20-year-old Noor, who lost her husband and her home to the shells and rockets….,” she continued.

Women caught in war and conflict are often the most vulnerable to increased violence. They also face heightened hardship as they try to guard over their children without their husbands under harsh and violent environments.

“Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of hardship or death. The refuge was chosen because it is one of the few basements in Baba Amr. Foam mattresses are piled against the walls and the children have not seen the light of day since the siege began on February 4. Most families fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs,” Colvin added to her news story in 2012.

In a region where humanitarian aid has been blocked due to conditions of siege and increased dangers, 8 million people are now homeless. Those displaced who have left Syria as they live in formal refugee camps count now at approximately 400,000. Those who live outside the camps now number almost 2 million, says the most recent available data from the UN Refugee Agency.

“…We know that the situation continues to worsen on a daily basis and especially in these harsh winter conditions. Syrian women and children comprise over 70% of the refugee population and continue to bear the brunt of this conflict in many ways. They face serious threats to their safety and security, lack of access to basic services including those related to reproductive health. And many women, who now have to head their households, struggle to find a source of income to provide for themselves and their families,” says the new head of UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

To escape the ongoing violence currently 127,000 people are fleeing the Syrian border each month, outlines the Office of the  UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. This number is expected to pass 4 million by the end of of next year.

“I remind all parties to the conflict of their obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law, and their responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians,” said UN Secretary Ban in his recent statement.


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