ACTED, with UNICEF, provides safe spaces for children and youth fleeing Syria, in Qushtapa and Darashakran Camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Children participating in ACTED’s programs as well as community leaders have identified early marriage as an increasing issue in the camps. Responding to this threat to children’s safety, ACTED has sensitized staff and joined forces with protection actors to advocate for vulnerable children and youth.
The conflict in Syria, ongoing for over three years, has caused mass displacement of nearly 220,000 refugees into Iraqi Kurdistan. Over half of this vulnerable population are children under the age of 18.
Early childhood marriage is on the rise within the camps
ACTED has been providing safe spaces and protection services for Syrian refugee children and youth in the Iraqi Kurdistan since early 2013. With increasing numbers of Syrian refugees come increasingly complex issues including risks of abuse and exploitation, including early childhood marriage which is reportedly on the rise within the camps.
In partnership with UNICEF, ACTED provides holistic services to children ranging from age five to seventeen in Qushtapa and Darashakran camps, including a Child and a Youth Friendly Space, and a Child Protection Unit, working to make sure that children and youth forced to flee their home are brought to a safe environment. Girls who attend ACTED’s services have reported that early marriage is on the rise due to both the difficult living conditions and lack of educational services.
Partnering with protection actors to raise awareness
Responding to these reports, ACTED is conducting awareness-raising activities regarding early childhood marriage and advocating for children on a case-by-case basis.
ACTED is also partnering with protection actors in the camps including the Norwegian Refugee Council and UNHCR to raise awareness on early marriage issues in the camp. An important activity is promoting awareness messages to community leaders, who are then able to pass on messages to their communities, done through Child Protection Committees composed of doctors, teachers, camp representatives, youth, women and parents.