- Syrian girls and boys with disabilities are more exposed to protection risks
- Inadequate school facilities and a lack of specialised teaching skills to accommodate their learning needs among main challenges facing children with disabilities
- Safe, more inclusive and quality education system is needed urgently to make sure public schools accessible for all children regardless of their abilities
World Vision and Action For Humanity, two leading INGOs working to support Syrians in conflict-affected areas, are releasing a report today Hard Lessons: An inquiry into children with disabilities' exposure to protection risks in Lebanon and Northwest Syria, which is available here.
The report’s key findings are:
In Northwest Syria:
- Early marriage affects girls in Northwest Syria, regardless of whether or not they have a disability, but it is experienced differently due to the additional stigma and challenges faced by girls with disabilities.
- The type of child labour in which Syrian children with disabilities are involved is influenced by their disability. This study highlights a concerning cycle in which children with disabilities are at risk of being harmed due to engaging in dangerous work as a result of their disability.
- Exclusion from school and participation in school entail different kinds of risks for children with disabilities (CWD), both of which are exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in Syria. CWDs face additional barriers to accessing education, and conflict exacerbates these challenges. This contributes to the perpetuation of bullying and discrimination towards children with disabilities when they do attend school, which in itself is a barrier.
- Greater access to education for children with disabilities would provide greater protection from and delay protection risks to children with disabilities, but deteriorating living conditions have rendered education a mere hypothetical solution for respondents, as their pressing financial needs take precedence over the hypothetical benefits of education.
- In Lebanon:
- Children with disabilities among Syrian refugees in Lebanon face a greater risk of stigma and exploitation, which hinders their access to fundamental rights such as education.
- Children with disabilities among Syrian refugees in Lebanon are less likely to be subjected to child marriage compared to children without disabilities, primarily due to the social stigma and rejection they face
- Children with disabilities among Syrian refugees in Lebanon are less likely to engage in child labour compared to children without disabilities
Some of the report’s recommendations include:
For Northwest Syria (post-earthquake):
- Invest in inclusive education for children with disabilities in Northwest Syria:
- Provide financial assistance to families struggling with conflict related and post-earthquake challenges, covering school fees, uniforms, and supplies.
- Ensure that all new school construction or renovation projects are designed with accessibility in mind, including features such as wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms, and assistive technology.
- Implement evidence-based anti-bullying programs in schools to address the issue of bullying towards children and youth with disabilities in Syria.
- Increase access to education and skills development opportunities for children with disabilities, particularly girls, in Syria to improve their economic prospects and reduce their susceptibility to exploitation and abuse.
- Prioritise getting children back into school post-earthquake:
- Develop a communication strategy to emphasise the importance of education and its long-term benefits, targeting parents and caregivers.
- Establish safe and accessible temporary learning spaces for children unable to attend regular schools due to earthquake-related damage, and offer psychosocial support through school and community programs.
- Invest in addressing wider child protection issues:
- Develop and implement comprehensive initiatives to combat stigma, protect children with disabilities, and provide support services for families in Syria.
- Address the root causes of child labor and early marriage through evidence-based programs and education initiatives.
- Collaborate with local partners, enforce protection mechanisms, and raise awareness to ensure the safety and inclusion of children with disabilities in schools and communities.
- Develop and implement programs that promote equal access to education and employment opportunities for children with disabilities
- Support programs and projects that help promote integrated inclusive education, child protection, and livelihood for CWDs and their families in Lebanon
- Dedicate funds to build the knowledge and skills of teachers and other education personnel on inclusive education and on creating a safe and bullying-free environment and provide economic support to families of CWDs to help reduce financial barriers to education
Eleanor Monbiot, Regional Leader for World Vision Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office says:
“After 12 years of conflict, the Syrian refugee crisis remains one of the world’s largest refugee and displacement situations of recent times. Displaced children and their families inside Syria, as well as Syrian refugees in places like Lebanon, are still experiencing worsening socio-economic conditions and are still highly susceptible to protection risks. Children are at increased risk of child, early and forced marriage and child labour, lack of access to education and different forms of physical and psychological abuse are some of the challenges refugee and displaced children face due to economic crises, conflict and displacement.”
Othman Moqbel, Chief Executive Officer for Action For Humanity, says:
“In Lebanon, children with disabilities among Syrian refugees are facing social stigma, which can render them less likely to be subjected to child marriage and child labour compared to children without disabilities. CWDs being comparatively less affected by early marriage and child labour does not mean that their protection is safeguarded; they face a greater risk of facing stigma and exploitation, which hinders their access to basic rights such as education. In Northwest Syria, the prevalence of early marriage is significantly influenced by gender roles, which also affects and is experienced differently by girls with disabilities. When it comes to child labour, the type of labour in which Syrian CWDs are involved is influenced by their disability. CWDs also face different kinds of risk linked to their exclusion from as well as their participation in school, both of which are exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in Syria.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
World Vision is a global humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit https://www.wvi.org/syria-response or follow us on Twitter @WorldVisionSR. World Vision Syria Response has been operating inside Syria, Jordan and Türkiye since 2011, where we provide life-saving protection, education, WASH, livelihoods and health services to refugees and local communities.
Action For Humanity provides aid and assistance to people affected by natural and man-made disasters. We are the parent charity of Syria Relief, the UK’s largest Syria-focused humanitarian assistance organisation. In 2021, Action For Humanity supported a remarkable 3.5 million people across the Middle East and South Asia.
Representatives from World Vision and Action For Humanity are available for interview. For more information contact Charles Lawley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +447752796646