Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Val Morgan from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) blogs on the Caritas Syrian refugee emergency response from Lebanon and Jordan

“Sexual violence and abuse of women is a major problem but it is not in our culture to talk about it. We have heard some terrible stories from the Zatari camp,” said one aid worker I spoke to in Jordan.

I had seen this problem before in the Democratic Republic of Congo when very large numbers of people flee their homes and are displaced by war. It is often the case in these situations that women and girls become much more exposed to abuse and sexual violence.

This horrific problem now seems to be spreading as an indirect result of the ongoing war in Syria. Yet again, ordinary people are carrying the heaviest burden. In Lebanon, I spoke to Fatme Mchawreb, a senior social worker at the Saida migrant centre. Fatma told me the problem was on the rise.

“Mothers have no protection if they are on their own. Sexual violence and abuse is increasing. However, people do not talk about it as sex is a taboo subject in this country. But rape is happening here in Lebanon.

“Before, UNHCR would deal with these cases but we have taken over from them and in the last three months we are discovering more and more of these cases. Up to now we had referred them to Abaad, a specialist NGO in Syria.”

“We already have a sexual violence and abuse programme with workers doing training for people in the community. The support we provide includes trying to help those affected meet their material needs, and also a referral to a psychologist.

“With the abuse of women we often discover it when we do our first home visit. Sometimes the women come to us after they have been beaten by their husband.”

They need someone to support them and they trust the social worker.