GENEVA – More than 145,000 Syrian refugee families in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan are headed by women who are the sole caregivers and face daily threats of violence while often lacking the means to put food on the table, the United Nations said Tuesday in a report meant to galvanize more support for those suffering from Syria's civil war.
The women's struggles as the lone breadwinner for one of every four refugee family households in those nations often includes coping with the threat of violence or exploitation and grappling with their children's mounting trauma and distress, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, known as UNHCR.
"Syrian refugee women are the glue holding together a broken society. Their strength is extraordinary, but they are struggling alone," UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie said in a statement.
The Geneva-based agency's report is based on the accounts of 135 women interviewed over three months earlier this year. All had taken sole responsibility for their families after their men were killed, captured or otherwise separated.
The biggest difficulty the women said they face is their inability to pay rent, provide food and other necessities. A third of the women said their families aren't getting enough to eat.
Many said they have exhausted their savings, even sold off their wedding rings. Eighty percent of the women lacked paid work. Only a fifth of those were interviewed said they have any kind of support from other adult relatives.
Some rely on the kindness of landlords who let them stay for free and some women send their children to find work.
U.N. aid agencies including UNHCR provide cash to a quarter of the women — and two-thirds of those who receive that cash said they are completely dependent on it.