The Brutal Struggle Of Syrian Refugee Women Trying To Look After Their Families Alone

“Their strength is extraordinary, but they are struggling alone.”

1. Almost 150,000 Syrian refugee women have taken over the responsibility of looking after their families, a new report by the UNHCR has revealed.

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

2. The women’s partners are believed to have died, been captured, are missing or remain stuck in Syria.

UNHCR/ Lynsey Addario

3. Now the women have shouldered the burden of caring for their families alone.

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

4. Lina has been living in a makeshift tent in Lebanon with her seven children for over a year.

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

The family fled Syria two years ago when the country was in the grips of a bloody civil war which continues to rage today.

5. Three of her children are very ill and though she receives some aid every month, it is not enough for food and medicine.

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

“Our situation is very difficult, helpless, what can I tell you,” Lina said.

6. “There are days when I cannot give my children medicine. Those days are tough, especially for them, but for me too.”

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

“For a mother to stand idle watching with hands tied is something very painful. It is extremely painful. Not just a little.”

7. “I have no choice but to be strong. If I get weak the children will be affected. Sometimes, if my tears drop, I keep them to myself and don’t let them see.”

UNHCR / Lynsey Addario

“My children are very sensitive, especially the sick ones.”

8. This is Lina’s story:

9. Every day has become a struggle for survival for these women.

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

10. Fadia lives with her four children in an isolated tower outside Tripoli in Lebanon.

UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

Her husband was killed in the Syrian civil war in May 2012.

11. Money is so tight that sometimes Fadia can only cook one meal a day.

UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

“We see meat once a month, when we get food vouchers,” she said.

12. “Every now and then I might buy it, so the children don’t miss it too much.”

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

13. This is Fadia’s story:

14. Between February and April the UNHCR spoke to 135 Syrian refugee women.

UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

15. The main findings of the Woman Alone – the Fight for Survival by Syrian Refugee Women report were:


– A third of the women said they did not have enough money to eat properly.

– Many of the Syrian refugees have reached the end of their savings and have resorted to selling off their wedding rings.

– 60% feel insecure; one in three are too scared or overwhelmed to leave their homes.

– They report facing harassment from all quarters, with one woman claiming to have been raped.

– 95% of the women feel their role has changed for the worse.

– Many fear their children are taking on too much stress and forced to grow up too soon.

16. UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie said: “Syrian refugee women are the glue holding together a broken society.”

UNHCR / Elena Dorfman

“Their strength is extraordinary, but they are struggling alone. Their voices are an appeal for help and protection which cannot be ignored.”

17. António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, added: “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.”

UNHCR/ Lynsey Addario

“It’s shameful. They are being humiliated for losing everything.”

18. Syria is the largest displacement crisis in the world.

UNHCR / Elena Dorfman

By the end of the year, the number of refugees is expected to reach 3.6 million.

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