Idlib: Lice, skin diseases spread in IDP camps due to lack of water

IDP mothers wash their children’s clothes in Deir Hassan camps in northern Idlib region - 8 December 2022 (Enab Baladi)

IDP mothers wash their children’s clothes in Deir Hassan camps in northern Idlib region - 8 December 2022 (Enab Baladi)


Idlib – Huda al-Kulaib

The spread of skin diseases in the camps for the displaced Syrians in the northern Idlib region has become a worrying matter due to the lack of water needed as one of the basic needs.

Many displaced people resort to using shared bathrooms that lack privacy due to the difficulty of securing water due to its high costs, in addition to being a breeding ground for leishmaniasis, scabies, and fungal infections.

Imminent “catastrophe”

The 33-year-old Fidaa al-Barhoum is forced to reduce the amount of water consumed daily to a minimum, especially when taking a shower, as a result of several circumstances, the most important of which is the cessation of support for the water sector in the Morek camp in Deir Hassan, north of Idlib.

Al-Barhoum told Enab Baladi that she is keen to rationalize water by reducing the times of showering and washing clothes to once a week because the quantities of water they get are sufficient for drinking and basic needs only.

As a result, al-Barhoum suffers from the spread of lice on the heads of her four children, which is made worse by the accumulation of waste in the vicinity of the camp and the spread of skin diseases.

The mother cannot prevent her children from playing in front of the camp, which has muddy roads and swamps of wastewater, which makes them come back dirty, while there is not enough water to clean their clothes.

Al-Barhoum says that the water allocations they receive are very small, as they are limited to two or three barrels per week, which is sufficient for cooking and washing, and they do not have the ability to buy water.

A barrel of drinking water is sold in the camps for seven Turkish liras, and a family of seven people needs about 20 barrels per week.

The camps in northern Idlib suffer from water scarcity, which negatively affects the lives of the displaced and their personal hygiene, as a result of rationalizing the use of water in light of its high prices and the deteriorating economic conditions of the displaced.

Daily activities, such as bathing, are almost non-existent in the displacement camps, which lack public hygiene rules, in addition to the lack of safe drinking water or sound sanitation systems.

Since September 2021, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned of an acute water crisis in northern Syria, facing millions of people.

The decade-long war has caused water and sanitation infrastructure to be destroyed and neglected, and more than three million people are facing a water crisis with severe health consequences, according to the MSF.

The statement indicated that the decrease in funding had affected the actors’ response, as humanitarian organizations are trying to fill the gaps and respond to the many needs, but access to water and sanitation facilities remains a problem.

Environment risk

Wafaa al-Mohammad, 27, who is based in the Tal al-Karamah camp north of Idlib, collects dirty clothes for a whole week in order to wash them once, seeking to save the amount of water available to her, which makes her bath with her children only once a week.

The amount of water they get is only enough for three days, and if her day-worker husband has the price of water, the family can secure her needs for the rest of the week.

Al-Mohammad is forced to buy five barrels every week, and in the event that the price is not available, she goes to the public bathrooms to take a shower, which are usually dirty, their doors are broken, and they do not have privacy.

In the cold winter, Maryam al-Qarji, 31, who lives in the Killi camps, northwest of Idlib, does not find a way to protect her five children from lice due to the lack of water and means of heating it.

There are public bathrooms in the camp, but they are mostly mixed and far from the tents, which prompted her and her husband to build a private bathroom for her tent with the limited capabilities available to them, as she said.

The Syrian Response Coordination Group (SRCG) said on 26 May that the formal camps that suffer from securing daily water needs amounted to 55% of the total number of camps and that 85% of the random camps suffer from the inability to secure these needs.

The relief team appealed to humanitarian organizations in northern Syria to work to secure drinking water for the displaced in order to prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics within the camps.

The number of camps deprived of access to clean and sterilized water reached 590 out of 1,450 camps, with the possibility of increasing the number in the event of the cessation of water projects for new camps.

42% of the camps have suffered from lack of water for more than five years, 37% of the camps have been suffering for two years, and 21% of the total camps have been suffering from a water crisis for six months.

Displaced families in the camps spend about 20% of their income on water in the winter, rising to 33% in the summer.

With regard to sanitation, 78% of the camps suffer from a lack of sanitation, and in addition to that, many camps have one toilet for every 65 people.

Treatment plan

Dr. Zuhair al-Qarat, a community health official at the Health Directorate in Idlib, told Enab Baladi that the treatment of lice and scabies depends on the use of “Permethrin” in its calibers and composition, whether it is a shampoo, a solution, or an ointment, depending on the patient’s condition.

The directorate recorded more than 3,000 cases of both diseases in schools and camps, which forced it to draw up a direct plan by distributing 3,000 treatment packages in the reported places, according to al-Qarat.

The directorate is also working with the Relief International organization to conduct a direct assessment and provide health care to seven affected areas, including schools, as they are the largest source of disease spread.

The community health official explained that the directorate has provided treatment for about 20 schools and gatherings so far.

He also recommended following the highest levels of hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease and to immediately report any cases or infections.



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