DAMASCUS, Syria – “All I know is that I need help,” said Amal,* a 46-year-old mother of five as she was admitted to the Al-Halbouni clinic in Damascus, Syria, for a medical consultation after she was severely beaten by her husband. “I do not know if I have any rights or even access to support of any kind… I have suffered enough. I feel lost, vulnerable and hopeless.”
Amal sought support at the Al-Halbouni health clinic after her husband became increasingly verbally abusive and violent. The abuse occurred against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis in Syria, which has seen the economic and political situation deteriorate and community support networks fray.
“I welcomed Amal and reassured her that she was not alone, that we were there to listen and support her – medically, psychologically and legally,” says Ruba Anqa, a legal consultant at the clinic, recalling her first meeting with Amal.
Supported by UNFPA, the Al-Halbouni clinic is part of the Syrian Family Planning Association’s (SFPA) clinics, a network that provides medical examinations, social services and legal counselling for survivors of gender-based violence.
The clinics also offer vocational training courses to improve and diversify livelihood opportunities for women. According to Ms. Anqa, they have provided services in three clinics to around 4,800 people affected by the crisis.
Three months after accessing various services at the Al-Halbouni clinic, Amal feels better. Thanks to the integrated package of support services provided, she also feels more empowered to deal with her emotional trauma.
“I feel more aware of my rights now than I ever did before, and I know how to access support in times of need,” says Amal.
She has decided to stay with her husband and feels that their relations have improved for now. But Amal also continues to visit the clinic regularly to receive psychosocial support, and she is part of a community of support.
Unfortunately, Amal is not alone in experiencing this type of violence. An estimated 54,000 women have been put at greater risk of suffering from gender-based violence as a result of the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Al-Halbouni is one of three centres run through a partnership between UNFPA and the SFPA in Damascus. The clinic provides holistic services and support to survivors of gender-based violence, as well as reproductive health services and commodities.
* Name has been changed