As the fighting in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour intensifies, with both the US-backed SDF and the Syrian Army closing in on Islamic State group positions, thousands of Syrians are being displaced.
Many are fleeing the conflict zones and forming temporary camps in nearby areas.
Yet while attempting to escape danger, these refugees still find themselves trapped in “terrible, terrible conditions”, says a new report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Around 40 camps across Raqqa and Hasakeh, holding between 2,000 and 10,000 people were visited by the ICRC.
ICRC spokesperson Inga Sedly, based in Damascus, visited the camps and described the circumstances of those living there:
“Every single person we met in the camps we saw in Raqqa had the same perilous journey,” Inga said. “Once people made it to the other side, their suffering did not end.
“People have escaped with literally nothing at all, but the clothes on their backs. Their only hope is to stay alive.”
People living in the camps are forced to stay in almost uninhabitable conditions. Proper healthcare is almost non-existent. This is especially causing problems for pregnant women, with no doctors on site, making childbirth more dangerous for the lives of babies and mothers alike.
Inga highlighted a lack of hygience facilities too: “While in some camps, latrines are available, they are usually not separated by gender and women avoid using them after sunset.
“In other places, no sewage system nor toilets are even available.”
The ICRC’s analysis shows that 50 percent of inhabitants are children. “Diseases are widespread among children,” Sedly added. “With a polluted environment and contaminated water, many children suffer from leishmaniasis, scabies, lice or diarrhoea. In one of the camps, we saw a mother using plastic bags for her newly born baby instead of diapers, causing serious inflammation on his skin.”
A lack of clean water increases the risk of disease too.
Along with this, Inga reports that refugees are threatened by snakes and scorpions, showing the danger inherent in the camps’ locations. Due to a lack of appropriate medical care, a person would be at an even greater risk of death or severe illness if bitten.
Clearly, many are trapped in dire situations, either faced with life-threatening circumstances in their home regions, or in the refugee camps.
While some refugees have the option of settling with family in Damascus, Aleppo or other places, most reportedly have nowhere else to go. They are trapped in the camps.
The ICRC and the Syrian Red Crescent have started to ship water in great quantities to those in need, with 6,000 litres arriving daily at the Arisha camp in Hasekeh, where local water supplies have been contaminated with oil. The ICRC is planning to deliver aid to several other camps, which will include a delivery of jerry-cans, waste management tools and the installation of water tanks and latrines.
“The ICRC and SARC are currently discussing with the Ministry of Water Resources to increase their infrastructure programmes in Hasakeh and Raqqa Governates, as a large amount of critical water infrastructure requires rehabilitation to restart water distribution,” Inga added.
“Two projects in the area of Al Hool and Shaddadi will soon be resumed, while five more projects – in Allouk, Zahraa, Tal Es Siman, Saffan and Tabqa – are under discussion.”