70,000 IDPs in Al-Hol battle summer heat
The UN and its humanitarian partners are working to address the extensive needs of tens of thousands of residents of the Al Hol camp in the northeast of Syria where stifling summer temperatures can reach as much as 50 degrees Celsius during the day.
To respond to the urgent needs of camp residents, 35 humanitarian organizations are providing food, water, health care, shelter services, NFI supplies, including hygienic items and education and protection support. Low purchasing power is a challenge and people continue to receive food assistance through ready-to-eat rations and food rations.
To help families access services, four desks have been set up to provide information about general services in the camp, process of returns and permissions to leave the camp. Families remain concerned about their missing male relatives, including children, having received limited information about their whereabouts. As for the detainees, camp administration officials state that information is not yet available and that coordination with high level entities is needed before the information is shared. A FAQ and map have been prepared to help families access information.
The three field hospitals in the camp are in need or technical and logistical support. As of mid-July, only two of the three hospitals perform surgeries. To scale-up efforts, a blood bank is being opened in Phase 1. The need for a quarantine for infectious diseases remains critical. Despite the fact that health services in the camp have improved, humanitarian agencies continue to rely on five hospitals, outside the camp, for referrals of critical cases. The limited number of ambulances and transport for emergency cases remains a major obstacle. Rising summer temperatures also pose a critical challenge. Waterborne disease and respiratory diseases, as well as cases of acute diarrhea, leishmaniasis and malnutrition have increased.
Over 1,800 people with disabilities remain in critical need of assistance, including assistive devices such as wheelchairs, canes and crutches. There is also a need to expand comprehensive services for elderly persons to ensure that they are at the centre of the response. Efforts to improve overall living standards at the camp are underway. Enhanced illumination efforts are ongoing – including the procurement of 12,500 solar lamps to improve protection between tents, while rechargeable fans, mosquito nets and summer clothes for children are also being distributed to help the camp population combat the summer heat. Road construction, solar street lighting and other infrastructure services are also ongoing.
Since 26 June, the number of displaced people at Al Hol has decreased from 73,783 to 70,707 people (as of 18 July), due to the repatriation of third-country nationals and the return of hundreds of Syrian nationals to their areas of origin in Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor governorates following agreements with tribal leaders, including 196 Syrians who returned to their place of origin on 11 July. Iraq has cleared the repatriation of 2,000 out of 8,700 families, however, a return date has yet to decided . The absence of legal documentation among many Iraqi families also poses an obstacle for repatriation.
Over the past couple of months, humanitarian partners have been working to reorganize the camp to alleviate overcrowding in some phases and mitigate tensions between different groups. While relocation to Phases 6 and 8 continues, the pace has been slower than expected as a result of resident concerns over limited available services in these areas and familiarity with their current setting. Humanitarian agencies are currently working to expand services to meet needs and communicate the availability of these to residents. Humanitarian access to the annexes hosting some 11,000 foreign nationals, who are neither Iraqi nor Syrians, has slightly improved although remains limited, impacting in particular health and protection services.