During the past year, worsening violence in Iraq has seen at least two million people forced to leave their homes. Many have headed to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where an estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees were already sheltering, having fled violence in their own country.
It is still early but people flock to the main shopping street of Darashakran camp before the heat becomes unbearable. It’s only May, but the thermometer confirms it is already 38 degrees Celsius.
At the other end of the camp, Khalil Ismail and his friend Yousef Ali sit in the shade of a brick wall. From their slightly elevated position, they sip coffee and watch as workers pour a concrete slab. Someone Khalil knows passes by and wave. In response, Khalil throws a lump of earth that breaks just a few centimetres from its target. Everyone laughs. Then silence sets in again.
“There is not much to do here,” Khalil says. “We laugh a little, we squabble, we try to forget we’re away from home, but it is never far from our minds.”
Hailing from Qamishli in north-eastern Syria, Khalil, his wife and their five children fled to the Kurdistan region more than 18 months ago. They now live in a concrete shelter in the oldest part of the camp. In the main room, a television broadcasts a Syrian soap opera.
His eldest son, who is disabled, stares at the screen while the two youngest children run to get tea, an ashtray, a picture of the youngest during the Kurdish New Year. Khalil and his family have two rooms, a small kitchen and a bathroom. He does not complain about his life at the camp as he knows everyone does not have the same comforts.
Finding Space for Everyone
Fighting in the Kobane region, north of Syria, has displaced thousands of people and most come through Turkey into Iraqi Kurdistan. Upon their arrival, some families were housed in tents in the temporary part of the camp. Six months later, they are still waiting to be resettled.
“Why don’t we live in the same conditions as the others?” asked one young mother, who did not wish to be named. “Look at my baby, he is barely 10 days old.”
Parents try to create an air flow around the cradle of the newborn they placed at the entrance of the tent.
“There is a air conditioning system but there is not enough electricity in all the tents and suddenly it stops working.”
As families continue to arrive, a new section of the camp is under construction to house them, but that takes time and with summer fast approaching parents are understandably concerned.
A few meters from these tents, an Action Against Hunger team is repairing latrines. A second team is inspecting the condition of water points nearby that provide families with safe, clean drinking water.
At Darashakran, and in several other refugee camps in the governorate, Action Against Hunger rapid response teams are providing vital water supplies as well as sanitation and hygiene systems in a bid to prevent any outbreak of disease and protect the health of the most vulnerable, particularly children.
We are not only installing but also maintaining facilities; repairing any damaged infrastructure; draining septic tanks; ensuring the distribution of hygiene kits, which contain items such as soap, and drainage tools; and organising good hygiene practice talks for those living in the camps to help them protect their health and that of their families.
The population’s concerns are shared by our teams on the ground. The summer is always a very difficult time of year in this region, with temperatures capable of exceeding 50 degrees.