Syria. Al Hol hell

8 July 2019, 16:55

The end of Isis’s grip on Syrian territories provoked a massive influx of IDPs at the Al Hol camp, which is now facing another humanitarian crisis. Domenico Chirico – Programme Director for Un Ponte Per…. The only Italian NGO working in the camp and long-time partner of the Kurdish Red Crescent – was interviewed by Futura D’Aprile for the InsideOver publication.
On March 22nd 2019, the Syrian democratic forces captured Baghouz, Daesh’s final stronghold in Syria, and ended the war with the Islamic State. The defeat of Isis however created even more IDPs, who soon arrived in search of shelter at the Al Hol camp in Northeast Syria.

Domenico Chirico, Programme Chief for the “Un Ponte Per…” NGO, explains that in just 4 months the number of IDP camp-dwellers grew from 20,000 to 80,000, severely stretching the camp’s capacity.

“There were just too many people living in the camp, with inadequate facilities and the only people still working to solve this crisis situation are the NGOs”, adds Chirico, who has returned from Syria.

“One of the biggest problems at the camp is the high mortality rate caused by treatable diseases which in normal conditions would not be fatal for so many people: just consider the fact that about 200 people died in just one month”.

Another factor which made the situation even worse was the announced withdrawal of the US army from Syria in December 2018. President Trump’s decision to withdraw all troops stationed in the Middle East, Chirico continues, resulted in donors limiting their funding of NGOs to just 3 or 4 months.

This withdrawal of US troops was announced but never actually carried out, so donors reviewed their spending once again, and increased funding, which slightly improved conditions at Al Hol camp.
The challenges are still “enormous, but the International Community has become more involved again and is funding emergency operations, with the arrival of many key players. However the situation is still critical because this camp is just not equipped to cope with the needs of its inhabitants. Temperatures reach 50 degrees in the summer and that triggers the growth of bacteria and the spread of diseases which flourish in high temperatures”.

The death rate is much lower now than a few months ago, but there is still much work to be done. The only healthcare services in the camp are provided by us and the Kurdish Red Crescent, but we just can’t handle the needs of all the IDPs living at Al Hol.

The uncertain destiny of Daesh relatives

In addition to the tragic healthcare situation, there are also the problems related to the camp’s ‘Annex’ section, inhabited by 10,000 foreigners, the wives and children of Daesh fighters. They are guarded and forced to stay in that part of the camp, effectively treated as prisoners. “We hope that the Daesh relatives will be moved to other camps, but really they should be deported to their own countries”, adds Chirico.

Foreign governments, with very few exceptions, refuse to allow any of their nationals associated with the Islamic State, and want them to stay in the Syrian camps. The women and their children are living in a state of limbo, without knowing their fate.

“We hope that soon the IDPs will be able to return to their home towns, but rebuilding has not started yet and there has to be at least basic levels of safety and socio-economic stability. The camp problems are a massive burden which is now being left to the Kurds. NGOs like us can provide some assistance, but what is really needed is the concrete support of the International Community”.
Taken from “InsideOver”, 5th July 2019. Original article:


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