Four unique problems that women and girls face in refugee camps

Published November 23rd, 2015 - 01:20 GMT
The issues that women and girls face in refugee camps extend past sexual abuse and violence. (AFP/File)
The issues that women and girls face in refugee camps extend past sexual abuse and violence. (AFP/File)

Amid one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time, refugee camps have sprouted up and overcrowded faster than ever. For those displaced inside such camps, concerns like the spread of disease, access to basic needs and survival have consumed daily life.

Being a women or young girl in a refugee camp compounds these concerns, reports documented by several human rights have proved it time and again.

Sexual assault, for example, has become a prominent consequence of highly concentrated refugee camps. And according to a report by the UNHCR, efforts to protect refugee women have been largely unsuccessful, with humanitarian workers often being unfamiliar with guidelines meant to safeguard women facing rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Aid still has a long way to go to stem things like this, but other gender-specific problems are less obvious and often less talked about. Here are four of them.

1. Becoming a widow. More than half of Syria's displaced people—totaling 11 million—are children, often left to a windowed mother with few options to economically sustain them. In response, UN Women created an initiative named "cash-for-work" to empower refugee women economically.  


2.Tampons and sanitary napkins. Concern for menstruation sanitation materials is often overlooked entirely in refugee camps, as it does not fall into the primary needs of refugees for most aid agencies. But efforts are underway to get these products to populations in need—a crowdfunding campaign has launched in Calais, where a jungle of camps house refugees trying to get asylum in Europe. (If you're interested in donating, click here.)

3. Child marriage. This has been an issue throughout the last five years of Syria's conflict, particularly for young girls. Families unable to care for all the members of their family sometimes resort to marrying off their daughters to men—who are often much older—for both protection and economic security in refugee camps. Beyond the moral questions of these arrangements, childhood marriages are more vulnerable to domestic violence, feeding more fuel to the occurrence in refugee camps.



4. Mental issues. This is probably the least publicized problem stemming for conflict, but it's also one of the most widespread—especially among women. The Syrian war has left a psychological wound for all refugees, but studies have spotlighed another female-specific concern as apossible instigator of more psychological trauma. As a result, aid agencies cite a great "need to integrate mental health and reproductive health services" for refugee women.


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