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High temperatures turn Atmeh refugee camp into living hell

(Eqtsad)- In recent days, Syrians have experienced difficult days with the rising temperatures, but their suffering does not compare to the tragedy residents in camps along the Syrian-Turkish border are experiencing. 

The area of Atmeh in Idlib province hosts several refugee camps where according to statistics between 80,000-100,000 people live. 

“We got to the camp around 10 am, and the temperature had exceeded 45 [degrees Celsius] outside the tents, but inside a tent, it [the temperature] rose to 50,” said Abdul Wahab Ahmad, a journalist activist, visiting camps in Atmeh last Monday. 
Ahmad who appeared pained by the scenes he saw in Atimah’s camps said to Eqtsad, “It is impossible for a human to sit inside a tent… a few minutes after I entered a tent, I felt like I was going to suffocate.”

He continued, “It is intolerable, may God help them! How can they live in this atmosphere? For two nights, the people in these tents did not sleep. And in these camps, the sewage drains are open. Imagine the high temperatures and the smell of the sewage. There is water in tanks, but the water temperature is 50 degrees Celsius!”

Some of the camps have an acceptable level of services which makes it easier for its residents to acclimatize with the difficulties of life in the area. However, other camps in the area do not have the same level of services. Some of the camps do not even have ice blocks to be able to offer children cool drinks in this heat.

Hussein al-Loun, a resident in Ataa camp which is formed of cement houses built in rows, said that the situation in their camp is nothing in comparison to what people residing in other camps are experiencing. 

Speaking to Eqtsad, al-Loun said, “The best thing about Ataa camp is that we always have access to water, but in the camps around us suffer to access water as it is transported using water tanks.”

He continued, “We suffer from the electricity as it only reaches us for four hours at night. We try to benefit from it by charging batteries for those who have them and turning on 12-volt fans.” 

He added, “these batteries and fans are not available to many of the residents in Atimah’s camps which increases the size of the crisis they are experiencing.”
For al-Loun and the other residents of Atimah’s cement camp, the period extending from noon until midnight is the most difficult time of the day. “The house that we live in becomes like a bathroom. We try to escape the severe heat by walking in the fields in Atmeh.”

“In recent days, and due to the high temperature, some camp residents suffered heat stroke because the temperatures rose to unbearable levels,” al-Loun said. 
Other than the high temperatures, residents suffer from the lack of proper infrastructure, especially sewers. Hussein al-Loun said that the camps are not equipped with sewage network, so most of the sewers run among the tents releasing smells and attracting flies, mosquitos, insects and spreading illness among the children in the camps. 

Camp residents also suffer from only having access to hot drinking water due to the lack of refrigerators and the difficulty of getting ice blocks due to their rarity or the camp residents lacking the financial means to buy the blocks. 

Abdul Wahab Ahmad explained that a block of ice costs 600 Syrian Pounds. He said, “Its price is considered very high when compared with the financial income of most of the camp residents, so they do not buy it, and if someone buys a block they share it with their neighbors.”

To add to all these issues, the atmosphere in Atmeh is dry, so the heat and lack of infrastructure is exacerbated by passing cars striking up dust as they drive past on dirt track roads.

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