Syria: rain turns IDP camps into muddy “lakes”, dead child

Torrential rains in northwestern Syria have turned IDP camps into muddy swamps, with an international NGO reporting the death of a child on Tuesday in the harsh weather that robbed tens of thousands of people of their tents.

In Idleb province, an AFP correspondent visiting a camp near the town of Maaret Misrine saw large brownish pools all around tents erected with plastic sheeting or gray blankets, rescuers attempting to using bulldozers to clear the thick mud.

A six-year-old boy died in the “heavy flooding”, reported the NGO Save The Children, a spokeswoman explaining that he was in a tent which collapsed. “At least 41,200 people were affected by the storm,” the NGO added in a statement.

“We’ve been swimming in the water for three days,” Abou Qassem, a father of eight and displaced near Maaret Misrine, told AFP. “Water has seeped into the tents”.

A camp for displaced Syrians flooded after torrential rains on January 19, 2021 near Katr Lusin, in Idleb province (AFP – Aaref WATAD)

“No words can express even an ounce of our suffering,” said 24-year-old Mahmoud al-Alaoui. “The camp has turned into a lake”.

In makeshift homes, carpets and blankets laid on the ground are completely flooded, the AFP correspondent noted.

In the previous days in another camp, he had seen residents clearing mud in front of their makeshift homes or clearing water from it.

The lucky ones wear rubber boots. But some barely covered children, in pajamas or sportswear, struggle in the mud with sneakers or plastic slides, pants pulled up to the knees.

In around 60 camps, some 2,558 tents were “damaged or destroyed” by the storm, Save The Children said.

“Tens of thousands of people have dispersed to find shelter in schools and mosques,” adds the British NGO.

The war in Syria, which began in 2011, left more than 387,000 dead and forced millions of people into exile.

A camp for displaced Syrians flooded by torrential rains on January 17, 2021 in Katr Uruq, in Idleb province (AFP - OMAR HAJ KADOUR)

A camp for displaced Syrians flooded by torrential rains on January 17, 2021 in Katr Uruq, in Idleb province (AFP – OMAR HAJ KADOUR)

In Idleb province, the country’s last major jihadist and rebel bastion, half of the some three million inhabitants are displaced persons, settled in informal camps after fleeing the fighting. They survive thanks to aid from international organizations and humanitarian NGOs.

“Miserable conditions in the flooded IDP camps,” said UN deputy regional coordinator for humanitarian operations, Mark Cutts, on Tuesday.

The weather is likely to worsen with “snow forecasts and temperatures dropping to -3 ° Celsius in the coming days,” he warned.

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