Torrential rains in Syria damage tents, devastate lives of people in camps
More than 120,000 people living in some 300 displacement sites across northwest Syria are now facing a catastrophe caused by torrential rain and strong winds, according to the United Nations. At least 21,700 tents are estimated to have been damaged in the floods.
“Heavy rainfall and floods in north-west Syria in recent weeks have had a devastating impact on displaced people living in self-made camps, and the situation is going from bad to worse”, said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at a news briefing today at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
OCHA reports that there are 2,7 million displaced people in Idlib and other parts of northwest Syria, including 1,6 million people spread out in over 1,300 camps and informal sites. There are not nearly enough health facilities, schools and other essential services for all these people.
“Many people who were already struggling to survive had their food stocks and household items and other possessions washed away, and water sources were contaminated” Laerke said.
“In some cases small children, the elderly, pregnant mothers and other vulnerable people were left stranded in remote areas in the mud, as temperatures dropped below zero,” he added.
Thousands of people have found themselves cut off from all services and support for days, as rescue workers and humanitarian struggled to reach them to provide support.
Although artillery shelling and bombardments have continued to impact communities and cause casualties across the northwest in January, including the Idleb area, open hostilities remain significantly lower compared to last year at the same time before the ceasefire started.
“Humanitarian staff are now struggling to reopen access roads to reach the displaced in the north-west with emergency shelter, food, clean water and other supplies. It is a massive undertaking and the work will continue for months”, OCHA’s Jens Laerke said.“So far, the international response has not matched the scale of the crisis”.
In November 2020, OCHA issued a call for US$49 million for priority winterisation activities, including to deal with flooding, but less than half of this has been received to date. People will continue to suffer in sites that lack adequate access roads, gravel, drainage systems and other essential services.
As the 10th anniversary of the Syrian conflict is approaching, the numbers are staggering: twelve million people having been forced from their homes – more than half the pre-conflict population – making it the biggest displacement crisis of this century. Over 80 per cent of the conflict-affected civilian population are women, children and the elderly.