IDPs in northwest Syria: New winter, old ordeal (Photos)


January 19, 2021

AMMAN, IDLIB — Standing inside a flooded tent in the Umm Jaran informal camp, east of Kafr Arrouq town in the northern countryside of Idlib, Sharif Abu Khlaif was utterly unable to describe the suffering of the camp residents.

The floods have become annual scenes in the opposition-held northwest Syria, which hosts over four million people, half of whom are internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, Abu Khlaif and his family of nine experienced this harsh reality for the first time, as they were displaced from the eastern countryside of Saraqib near the end of last winter.

“The camp residents were displaced from the southern countryside of Idlib; from Saraqib and its countryside and Maarat al-Numan,” Abu Khalif told Syria Direct. “They built the camp on agricultural land that lacks the most basic services.” 

According to the “Response Coordination Group,” Umm Jaran camp, which hosts around 650 displaced families, is one of 145 IDP camps affected by the recent heavy rainfall. The humanitarian group’s initial assessment estimates that at least 278 tents were wholly damaged, and 513 tents partially damaged.

Northwest Syria’s informal camps, many of which were established after the military offensive of the Assad regime and its Russian ally that ended in March 2020, are the most affected by the recent rainstorms. However, “the rains even damaged camps that were built years ago with the supervision of NGOs in the region,” Muhammad Hallaj, the director of the “Response Coordination Group,” told Syria Direct.

Further, the numbers issued by the group are preliminary. “This is what has been documented [so far], but we are not done assessing the full damage,” Hallaj added. Still, it is already clear that “there is no adequate response to meet the needs of those affected [by the flooding],” he added.

Until the needs of those affected by the floods are met, Abu Khlaif and other IDPs are still battling to “evacuate tents” and secure alternative shelters, focusing on children and the elderly. “Ten or fifteen families live now in a single tent,” he said.

Children walk on a thin mud barrier standing out from the flooded ground in Umm Jaran informal settlement, east of Kafr Arrouq in the northern countryside of Idlib, 18/1/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

Stranded in water and mud, a child looks up to the sky in Umm Jaran informal settlement in the northern countryside of Idlib, 17/1/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

Using a small container, a woman tries to remove the rainwater that flooded her tent in Umm Jaran camp, 18/1/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

Aerial view of the Umm Jaran informal settlement, flooded by rain 17/1/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

Children sit around a heater in their tent in Umm Jaran informal settlement in the northern countryside of Idlib, 18/1/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

Aerial view of the Umm Jaran informal settlement, flooded following heavy rainfall across northwest Syria, 17/17/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

In light clothing and without a coat, a child walks among the flooded tents of Umm Jaran camp in the northern countryside of Idlib, 18/1/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

A girl stands outside her flooded tent in Umm Jaran camp, in the northern countryside of Idlib, 18/1/2021 (Ezzudin al-Idlibi)

 

This photo story was originally published in Arabic and translated into English by Lyse Mauvais.