Fires ravage IDP camps in northern Syria

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The number of fires in IDP camps in northwestern Syria has risen to 126 since the start of the year after three new fires broke out on August 24 due to high temperatures inside tents and reliance on indoor stoves.

More than 590 IDP camps suffer from lack of water. Diminishing water allocations in other camps are also problematic due to a lack of official support and a high rate of daily consumption, according to the Syria Response Coordination Group, a non-governmental organization operating in the north- western Syria.

In a July 19 statement on its Facebook page, the group warned of increasing fires in camps in northern Syria, which have become recurring due to a heat wave, widespread use misuse of unrefined fuels and lack of awareness among children about the use of these products, leading to fires and civilian casualties.

The group added that one of the biggest factors that increases the risk of tents catching fire is reliance on indoor stoves, a habit developed by 90% of displaced families. Also, the use of canvas tents is a cause of fires, especially since nearly 96% of camps lack the insulation necessary to prevent fires from starting.

In another Facebook post on June 13, the Syria Response Coordination Group called on humanitarian organizations operating in the region to establish firefighting points in the camps and provide them with personnel to train them in fire fighting. managing fires in such a way as to avoid casualties.

The group also called on those concerned to find suitable accommodation for the displaced – preferably close to town centers and residential compounds – until suitable conditions are in place for the return of the displaced to their towns. and towns.

Ahmad Daas, a displaced person in Bahwartah camp near the Turkish border, told Al-Monitor: “Our tents don’t have any insulation against the heat of the sun. It’s like we’re suffocating inside from the scorching heat. We don’t have any fans.”

“[If we did have fans]we would need electrical panels and batteries to operate [them]. That’s why I spend most of my time in the shade of olive trees. But despite the heat wave, the lack of water remains our main concern and exacerbates our suffering,” he added.

Daas explained that “high temperatures make the tent vulnerable to fires. The poor equipment used inside the tents, such as cooking utensils, makes matters worse. Typically, fires start as a result of faulty equipment, not misuse.

“We also lack fire extinguishers, which delays our intervention in the event of a fire, not to mention that most of the [camp’s] the inhabitants do not know how to use it. We also don’t have specialized teams to deal with these incidents,” he added.

Amin Qassem al-Alloush, the head of Khair al-Sham camp in the northern part of Idlib province, told Al-Monitor: “About 446 families live in dilapidated tents that have not been replaced since. more than two years. years due to bad weather conditions, which are one of the main reasons for the outbreak of fires.

“The slightest spark could set the tents on fire, and it would be too late for the fire extinguishers. Lack of electricity is causing people to use old batteries, and short circuits are also causing flames to break out inside tents,” he added.

There are more than 1.8 million displaced people living in 1,633 camps spread across northern Syria near the Turkish border, according to August data from the Syrian Response Coordination Group.

These people suffer from harsh humanitarian conditions, including an unsanitary environment, pollution, the spread of open sewage pits, deprivation of basic resources and income, and dependence on humanitarian aid. . Children are dropping out of school and families are constantly short of food and water, not to mention the absence of the most basic daily services.

Appeals continue to be made to humanitarian organizations to alleviate the suffering of the displaced and to provide protection and winter heating.

There is also a major gap in the humanitarian response, reaching 57.4% in the food security and livelihoods sector; 69.8% in the water and sanitation sector; 86.5% in the health and nutrition sector; 62.3% in the non-food resources sector; 58.2% in the housing sector; 64% in the education sector; and 70.8% in the protection sector, according to data from the Syria Response Coordination Group.

Ahmed Kattan, director of camp response projects for the Bonyan Organization, a Gaziantep-based non-governmental organization that works to help war-torn communities in the Middle East, told Al-Monitor: “The fires in the camps which caused the death of many people, especially children, or caused permanent scars and disabilities, is not something new. But these cases began to be reported in 2019 when NGOs and camp management groups began working on setting up a reporting mechanism, which caught the attention of supporters, especially when the number of fires has reached shocking figures with devastating consequences.

“In order to reduce the fires, the Bonyan organization has implemented several projects, such as building separate kitchens for each tent, raising people’s awareness of the need to cook in the allocated space, and setting up hotspots. firefighters equipped with the necessary equipment in each camp. Not to mention general training for camp residents on how to deal with fires and how to use fire extinguishers and special training for crews in charge of firefighting points,” Kattan said.

He attributed the obstacles to organizations’ response to warding off the danger of many fires to the significant financial cost. “The firefighting points in the camps are effective, but they need a team supported by a monthly financial allowance because volunteer operations often result in a lack of commitment and failure,” he said. -he declares.

Kattan also mentioned issues with the land on which the camps were established. “The owners do not accept any construction work on their land. This is why organizations have recently sought to replace tents with well-designed and well-planned accommodations. [in other areas] to ensure the dignity and protection of displaced people,” he explained.

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