Cold Increases Suffering of Syrian Refugees… Electrical wiring threatens the lives of dozens of children in Zaatari Refugee Camp


Enab Baladi Issue # 95 – Sun, Dec. 15, 2013

Enab Baladi – Kholoud Helmi

After the cold wave “Alexa” that swept Syria and neighbouring countries, the lives of the refugees becomes more miserable in which adds misery over misery because the situation is very harsh in terms of living and economic conditions. The cold and snow wave which lasted for four days had resulted in killing dozens of children and forcing hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes to leave their areas and resort to neighbouring cities and countries.

A reporter of Enab Baladi (Abderrahim Tkhubi) in Kurdistan region of Iraq has stated that the situation of Syrian refugees there has become worse because of the harsh climatic conditions that hit the region. Thousands of people spend their days in the camps under the rain and snow. The reporter said that the humanitarian situation is very difficult because the camps lack the basic services of food, heating, water, and blankets; therefore, many of these people may need to burn wood, cartons or tires and it might reach to the point that they burn their old clothes. Such an action might pose a threat to personal and public health. Additionally, the poor situation of the roads in the large camps as Dumez camp has turned them to pools filled with water since most of these roads are unpaved. This situation threatens the lives of refugees who may have to use this water often. It is feared that some of the tents fall on the heads of their inhabitants in which it forces many refugees to clean the ceilings of their tents from ice and water fearing from falling down or leaking water inside the tent and this is what people are unable to do, especially, women and elderly.

Shireen Ahmad, a Syrian refugee in Dumez camp, asserted that the situation in Dumez camp for refugees is very difficult and that the camp is filled with mud and dirt in which people cannot get out of their tents in the rainy days because of the difficulty of movement between the tents. She mentioned that the organization of refugees in that camp provides kerosene heaters to the residents. Also, they provide 200 litters kerosene per coupon i.e. per family. However, she stressed that these heaters do not make them feel warm in windy open tents.

Niaz Nouri, a manager in Dumez camp, stressed that each tent has been provided with iron foundations and nylon blankets to ward off the water to run inside the tent. He pointed out that some heaters and blankets were also distributed to the refugees.

Nouri states that around 230 thousand displaced Syrians live in ten camps distributed in the provinces of the region. Many of these refugees came after the big wave of displacement on 15/08/2013 after opening the crossing point of Saemalka which connects the area of ​​al-Jazeera with Kurdistan region of Iraq. The UN provides $31 food vouchers per person per month for these people.

Children pay the highest price of this suffering from hunger and cold. Snow turns with its while colour to a tragedy of the camp where a child might pay his life a price for it similar to what happened in the refugee camps in Lebanon, and in Aleppo and Rastan. Salam Hadad, executive director of Hema volunteer group which is working in a number of neighbouring countries, states that the electricity wires in Zaatari camp is are a problem where on Tuesday, a child at the age of two was a subject to an electric shock when his mother did not pay attention to him for a little while and then he left the caravan. People found this child “frozen on the ground not being able to move” people who approached him; they found a power cord next to him where the child turned into blue colour. Salam stressed that these power cords are from a very bad type in which they do not resist the bad weather conditions.

Salam said that the areas that have been affected by the rains are the low-lying areas due to the accumulation of water in them where the pooled water becomes higher than the height of the tents’ floor and then the water seeps to tents. Some mobile homes suffer from water leaks from the ceiling inside the caravan despite the fact that canvas has been distributed to cover the roof of the caravan, but the roof of some caravans are greater than the canvas. In regard to the heating system, people use cooking gas-stove with not enough gas supplies; therefore, some families have punctured empty ghee cans and put them over the gas stove to distribute more warmth. Heaters have been provided since last February. Some clothes bags and light blankets have been distributed but these do not protect people from the cold and the aid does not meet its needs.

Smart news agency confirmed that an elderly displaced woman passed away after a collapse of three tents in al-Joulan camp in the countryside of Idlib due to the snowstorm that hit the region. This camp, which contains about 300 houses, lacks the minimum basic needs of the life while humanitarian organizations confirmed that they will provide this camp with heaters in the next few days.

The refugees of Bab al-Hawa camp experience a very bad situation where people were forced to cut trees and use them for heating. This happens because of the lack of fuel; in addition to a shortage of essential food items inside the camp due to a closure of the crossing point Bab al-Hawa after recent clashes between the Free Syrian Army brigades.

The Red Crescent organization, which is operating in Manbij in the suburb of Aleppo, has made displaced people move from Haji Abidin camp to a number of schools in the city due to the extreme weather conditions where there is an absence of heating system in this refugee camp.

In al-Naser camp near Atmah, refugees suffer from the poor living conditions where our correspondent said that the quality of tents is very bad and that the camp was held on a steep land in which it was completely isolated from the outside world because it is difficult to enter or exit from the camp. Additionally, none of the medical or relief organizations have visited them for a long time. The price of the gas cylinder exceeded, in case it is available, the 3500 Syrian pounds, and the water is contaminated because of the presence of primitive oil refinery near the only well that has drinkable water. Also the bread was missing during the storm and many children had gotten diseases due to poor health and medical services and the absence of heating materials whether it is firewood or any products of oil. Many refugees cut olive trees for heating. The correspondent said that aid materials are being stolen and sold in the markets. One of the brigades’ commanders is putting a pressure on the people in the camp, and controlling the aid materials that go into the camp. He mentioned also that the tenants are paying money to the owners of the land in where the camp was established.

In Oktishacale camp in Turkey, Enab Baladi reporter said that the situation of the camp is normal and the people who live there did not live the same suffering experience of the refugees in the camps of the neighbouring countries. He stated that children were happy with the snowfall and the camp’s authorities distributed thick and light blankets to every family because of the exceptional circumstances of the cold wave.

In Arsal camp, at least two children died due to the cold wave that hit the region. The correspondent of Enab Baladi said that women are cleaning the dishes outside the tents and under the snow, and the water leaks inside the tents. When she asked the people about their needs, they were hesitant to talk to her or even to answer her question but the sentence that has been repeated is “First and foremost, we need the warmth in these circumstances”.

For its side, the Coalition has asked the international community to meet its responsibilities towards the Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. A spokesman in the Coalition said that the economic ability of the Coalition is not enough to solve all the problems that Syrians are suffering from. Therefore, a serious regional and Arabic stance has to be made regarding this blizzard and harsh cold that threaten the lives of the refugees.

Translated by: Ruba Al Jarf

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