Winter Challenges the Camps of Internally Displaced Syrians

The Outbreak of Coronavirus Epidemic and Military Operations Prevented Int’l Institutions from Helping IDPs
The lack of sanitation systems has led to the spread of diseases, especially in camps where hundreds of thousands reside in Idlib. In the Deir Hassan region, the number of cases of water-borne diseases has increased significantly in the region. (Supplied)

With the advent of winter every year since the outbreak of the Syrian war, which entered its second decade a few months ago, internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have moved between different regions of the country face many big problems, as they live in camps set up randomly, which does not protect them from the winter cold, nor does it protect them from the floods that sweep away their tents and cuts off the roads to their camps.

The United Nations revealed that the number of Syrian IDPs who moved between various cities in their country after the war that erupted following the launch of the popular protests in Syria in mid-March 2011 was about 6 million, but not all of them live in random camps.

Nevertheless, the requirements of the camps are a heavy burden on the local and international institutions that work in the areas where they have been established, such as in the countryside of Idlib, north-western Syria, and other areas in the countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah and Raqqa, in addition to the Syrian Badia (desert), in which a camp was set up in the Rukban area, known by the name of the same area, and located on the Jordanian-Syrian border, close to the border with Iraq.

The camps in rural Idlib pose the greatest challenge to local and international bodies involved in the affairs of IDPs, in terms of their large number of its residents, as the number of camp residents in that area was over 1.5 million, spread over hundreds of random camps built in rudimentary ways.

According to a source from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (or Doctors Without Borders), which is active in several areas of Syria, the population in Al-Raban camp and the rest of the camps located in Idlib, Al-Hasakah and Raqqa, is experiencing difficulty in obtaining clean drinking water. Also, they face problems related to sanitation and the lack of rainwater drainage networks after the rainstorms that occur in these areas in the winter season.

The source revealed to Majalla that “Polluted water causes the spread of diseases among IDPs residing in the camps.”

In the various camps for IDPs, the residents work on repairing their tents before the coming of winter, to prevent rainwater from flowing into them after parts of them have worn out. (Supplied)

As international organizations ceased to operate or suspended some of their activities in Idlib and other Syrian areas as a result of the spread of the Coronavirus, as well as military operations by various parties, services worsened further in the camps for IDPs, and no projects were implemented to process their sewage systems.

Moreover, the lack of sanitation systems has led to the spread of diseases, especially in camps where hundreds of thousands reside in Idlib. In the Deir Hassan region, the number of cases of water-borne diseases has increased significantly in the region since May 2021.

For her part, the medical coordinator of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (or Doctors Without Borders) in Syria, Teresa Graciva, announced that "water-borne diseases increased by 47% in the region between May and June of this year, during which time some activities of our organization stopped."

The prevalence of diseases is not limited to the camps for IDPs in Idlib. In rural Raqqa, IDPs living in squatter camps were infected with intestinal diseases against the backdrop of drinking contaminated water, according to the Primary Health Care Centre supported by Médecins sans Frontières.

Also, in the countryside of Aleppo, IDPs in Shahba camp, most of whose residents are from Afrin, are experiencing difficulties in securing drinking water, as well as fuel and heating materials necessary for the winter.

This camp, in which tens of thousands reside, is usually affected by the tense relationship between The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also known as Rojava, and the central government in Damascus, which prevented the entry of food and fuel into the camp months ago. However, it later lifted the siege on it after reaching an understanding with The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria regarding military confrontations that took place between the forces of both parties in al-Hasakah Governorate, in the far north-east of the country.

The situation of the Rukban camp, which was set up in an arid desert area, is not different from the conditions of the rest of the camps in which IDPs reside, as its residents also suffer from the lack of necessary foodstuffs, heating materials and fuel.

A source at the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs in the capital, Damascus, expressed his "sadness" that the international parties were unable to find a solution to the problem of the resident, who was residing in an environment unsuitable for housing.

On the other hand, the Government of Damascus has repeatedly called for the closure of the camp and the return of its inhabitants to their areas, but a large number of young people residing in it refuse to return as a result of their refusal to join the compulsory military service imposed by the Syrian authorities on every young man over the age of eighteen.

In the various camps for IDPs, the residents work on repairing their tents before the coming of winter, to prevent rainwater from flowing into them after parts of them have worn out, but in many cases this does not help, especially if the tent is severely torn.

In addition to the camps for Syrian IDPs, Al-Hol refugee camp, which includes more than 60,000 people, constitutes the biggest problem among all the camps, in terms of the residence of foreign jihadists there, who are the wives of ISIS fighters who were either killed in confrontations with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that fought the extremist organization with the support of the United States, or were kept in its prisons.

The camp witnesses almost daily cases of violence, ranging from murder and attempted murder against the background of female Jihadists abandoning the ideas of ISIS, but other female jihadists prevent them from doing so, according to what a security source from the camp wholly controlled by the SDF told Majalla.

These cases of violence coincide with the camp's unpreparedness for winter, as it also suffers from a lack of heating materials and fuel, according to what a local source in Al-Hol refugee camp told Majalla, who considered that “The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria alone, cannot bear all the responsibilities of this camp.”

 

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