14 Dec 2012 10:00
Displaced Syrians brace for winter’s onslaught.
There are nearly two million internally displaced people who are stuck inside Syria with no place to go. Cold and afraid, most say they want desperately want to cross into Turkey. But Turkey has refused to accept them citing overcrowding. Qah camp is inside Syria close to the Turkish border. It was founded three months ago and is now has 520 tents. More families arrive every day, many from Hass—a town 85 kilometers southwest of Aleppo. The population, mainly women, children and the elderly, has swelled to 3600 since it was established three months ago.
About 450,000 Syrians live in camps in neighboring countries including over 137,000 in Turkey. But for an estimated two million internally displaced people remain in Syria, in danger and living in very difficult conditions.
Two new refugee camps are being constructed in Turkey, ostensibly to accommodate those stuck at the border. But for the people whose homes have been destroyed, family members killed, villages abandoned, it’s a race against time, weather and war.
Just two weeks ago regime forces dropped bombs nearby, creating a panic as people ran desperately for the Turkish border. No deaths were reported, but the situation remains tense. “Six missiles hit this village and [nearby] Atmeh,” reported Hassan, 35, a former police officer who has joined the FSA and lives with his family in the camp.
Since winter began more than a month ago, the region has experienced many days of torrential rains. Water leaks into the tents, wetting blankets, mattresses and rugs. At night, temperatures sometimes drop below freezing. “From inside the tents, you can hear the children crying,” says Mustafa, a 22 year-old former chef and military sergeant who fled with nine members of his family.
A doctor working with Medicins du Monde who preferred not to be identified said that he has seen many cases of respiratory problems and say that about 30% of the camp’s residents suffer from diarrhea as a result of unclean drinking water. Hepatitis A is also spreading rapidly at the camp. And it’s only December—the toughest winter months are still ahead.