Northern Syria: Quake-linked camps without utilities, services
“Everything can be managed, but we need heating for our children.” In trembling voices, survivors of the earthquake repeated this phrase to Enab Baladi about their most important needs in the camps they have sought refuge in, after leaving their destroyed or collapsing homes.
Dozens of camps were set up in response to the earthquake disaster, to be added today to a long list of random camps in northwestern Syria, and to increase the area’s humanitarian needs.
The crisis worsened in those camps after the owners of houses that were not affected by the earthquake chose to stay in tents for fear of a new earthquake or aftershocks that could demolish the remaining houses.
Despite the absence of accurate statistics on the number of camps established in response to the earthquake, the Gloca organization counted the existence of 78 camps, most of which are in remote areas or those affected by the earthquake.
Today, local relief organizations have become more helpless in the face of a disaster that has made the region “stricken,” especially since before the earthquake, these organizations were unable to meet the needs of the camp residents.
The rescue organization Syria Civil Defense (SCD), also known as The White Helmets, estimated the number of families that were displaced as a result of the earthquake at about 40 thousand families in northern Syria, while the number of completely destroyed buildings reached about 550 buildings, and more than 1570 buildings were partially damaged, in addition to hundreds of cracked buildings.
“I have four children, and today we are still living in a tent with my sister,” Khadija Mohammad complains to Enab Baladi about her inability to find a tent for her family.
Mohammad was forced to seek shelter after the earthquake demolished the family’s house, which resulted in her and her children suffering minor injuries.
According to what Enab Baladi monitored, one tent has been allocated for every two families in most of the earthquake-related camps, while securing tents has become like a dream for most families.
The director of the Response Campaigns Department at the Molham Volunteering Team, Faisal al-Aswad, told Enab Baladi that securing tents has become one of the biggest problems in northern Syria, especially after many families living in intact homes headed to the camps for fear of aftershocks.
The organizations are working to solve this problem by tailoring tents in the area or buying them from Turkey, according to al-Aswad.
He pointed out that tailoring tents has become very expensive after the price hike as a result of the earthquake.
According to an interactive map prepared by the Gloca organization, the camps established in response to the earthquake disaster need about 2,943 tents.
The head of the Gloca board of directors, Wasim al-Haj, told Enab Baladi that the members of the organization’s Shabab Pro team noticed during their tours in the north that there are dozens of camps in remote areas that are difficult for organizations to access, which prompted the team to prepare an interactive map to show the needs of these families.
The acute shortage of tents prompts many families to share them at night and stay in the open air during daylight hours, according to al-Haj.
Pleas to secure heating means
During an opinion poll conducted by Enab Baladi, most of the camp residents appealed to secure means of heating in light of the low temperatures.
“Heating is not available today, and we lost everything and left our homes as we are,” complains Ghazi al-Hamad, a resident of Jindires, the most affected town by the earthquake.
After spending days with his family in his relatives’ house, he was able to secure a tent, but he was unable to secure any means of heating to protect them from the cold of winter, al-Hamad added to Enab Baladi.
According to the interactive map prepared by the Gloca organization, the camps created in response to the earthquake disaster need 4958 means of heating and 15 thousand and 202 blankets. Blankets and means of heating are the second largest need for the people in the camps, according to al-Haj.
Still without toilets
More than one month has passed since the earthquake that hit northern Syria and southern Turkey; however, most of the camps set up in response to the disaster are still without toilets.
Families are forced to go to old camps to relieve themselves or to go to their relatives’ homes to take a shower.
The camps currently need about 281 toilets, according to the estimates of the Gloca organization, which the head of the organization’s board of directors, al-Haj, attributed to the fact that these camps are supposed to be temporary and lack infrastructure and management.
In turn, Faisal al-Aswad, director of the Response Campaigns Department at the Molham Volunteering Team, said that the organizations are working to provide toilet blocks for some camps, but they have not yet covered the need.
The lack of food and infant formula comes on top of the needs that the camp residents have been asking for for years, and they are common needs in the camps that were set up in response to the earthquake.
The needs of the camps are increasing against the increasing inability of the organizations and the lack of support provided during the winter season, as Syrians face the same tragedy every year during the winter season.
According to estimates by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in northwestern Syria during 2022 reached about 4,600,000 people, including 3,300,000 suffering from food insecurity, and 2,900,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has also increased to 14.6 million people, an increase of 1.2 million people compared to 2021, and such a number is expected to reach 15.3 million people in 2023.
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