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Suffering of displaced people in northern Syria worsens due to lack of water and disease

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The suffering of hundreds of displaced Syrians in refugee camps in the northwest of the country is increasing as the summer heat intensifies, funding decreases and humanitarian organizations stop supporting water and sanitation services.

Hussein Al-Naasan (30), recounting his struggle to provide water to his family living in a camp in the city of Sarmada, near the Turkish border, under a scorching sun, said the groups were depriving them of water right after right to rescue baskets, “as if they were trying to slowly kill the displaced.”

Arnasan told AFP that his family, made up of his wife and two children, shares a water tank with three other families, sharing the benefits and price of water, with demand for water growing during the summer months amid widespread high temperatures inside tents in the region.

He expressed concern that disruptions to water supplies and cessation of garbage collection would lead to the spread of germs and disease, causing a collapse of a health system already exhausted after more than 13 years of devastating conflict, calling it “a major catastrophe.”

Displaced people, local organizations and humanitarian workers blame the water crisis, waste accumulation and inadequate sewage treatment in the camps on some organizations ceasing services due to a drop in donor funding.

Syrian children fill buckets with water at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp near Sarmada, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, June 28, 2024. - After 13 years of civil war, a lack of international funding has severely undermined basic services such as water, waste disposal and sanitation in camps for displaced persons in northwest Syria, according to the United Nations. More than five million people live in areas outside government control in northern and northwestern Syria, most of them displaced and many relying on aid to survive, according to the UN. (Photo by AAREF WATAD/AFP)
Children forced to use primitive methods to collect water in refugee camps in northern Syria (French)

No financing

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said:To the United Nations More than 4 million people (Northwest SyriaThey make up 80 per cent of the population and need support this year in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, which is the least funded.

Idlib and its surrounding areas are not controlled by the Syrian government and are home to more than 5 million people, most of whom are displaced, according to the United Nations.

For years, residents of the overcrowded camps have relied on food, medical and logistical assistance from local and international organizations due to extreme poverty.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 41% of camps, or 460 out of 1,100 camps, lack basic water, sanitation and hygiene support.

The UN expects to cut services to 111 other camps by the end of September next year, highlighting the urgent need for increased financial support to maintain essential humanitarian operations in the region.

According to the same source, in the first quarter of 2024, only 2% of the funding needed for the water, sanitation and hygiene response had been received.

David Carden, deputy regional coordinator for the Syria crisis, told AFP that conditions in refugee camps in northwest Syria are dire, with 70 percent of the camps overcrowded, families in dilapidated tents facing suffocating heat and mountains of garbage piling up in camps without sanitation support.

Local organizations are aware of the difficult situation faced by residents, who also suffer from unpleasant odors emanating from open sewage pipes.

A Syrian youth cools down by dipping his head into a bucket of water at an internally displaced persons camp near Sarmada, Idlib province, northern Syria, June 28, 2024. - After 13 years of civil war, a lack of international aid has severely undermined the provision of basic services such as water supply, waste disposal and sanitation in camps for displaced persons in northwest Syria, the United Nations says. More than five million people live in areas outside government control in northern and northwestern Syria, most of them displaced and many relying on aid to survive, according to the UN. (Photo by AAREF WATAD/AFP)
Lack of funding exacerbates suffering of displaced people in northern Syria (French)

Spread of scabies

Firas Kadush, an official at the government's development ministry, said the “Salvation Government” that governs areas controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in and around Idlib is struggling to find an alternative.

Kadosh warned that a continued interruption in support would lead to further suffering for displaced people in refugee camps and trigger a humanitarian disaster.

The “Syrian Response Coordinators” – a coalition of local groups in northwest Syria – have warned of the spread of skin diseases in refugee camps as temperatures rise and available water decreases.

During a field visit to a camp on the outskirts of Sarmada, Fidaa Al-Hamid, a doctor from the local Al-Ataa Association, found that scabies infection rates in some camps exceeded 90%.

The doctor said this was due to a lack of water, overflowing garbage on the streets and lack of a sewage network.


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