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Returnees from risky Syria trip call for end to chaos in makeshift camps

Returnees from risky Syria trip call for end to chaos in makeshift camps

“People are angry and desperate,” says Head of Programmes Samina Haq. “They are at the end of their tether from lack of food, water and sanitation. You see two families living in one tent, so one family has to spend the day in the freezing cold with their young children while the other family sleeps. The camps are deluged by mud and everyone is coughing, clothes are damp and people sleep on damp mattresses.”

And Scotland head Habib Malik says: “Cross-border agreements with authorities and the creation of safe havens has to happen, so agencies like Islamic Relief can work properly in these camps. Management is ad-hoc, chaotic and unstructured, it’s no wonder people are at crisis point.”

Samina and Habib met Hamza, 25, whose 21-year-old wife Um Elaff is eight months pregnant. Um Elaff’s pregnancy has not been monitored due to lack of facilities. “We are scared about getting care during labour, and we have no baby clothes or nappies,” says Hamza.

Surgery in makeshift hospitals usually takes place at night, as due to rising fuel prices it’s not possible to run generators for appropriate lighting all day. So if an operation has to be done during the day, doctors have no choice but to work by natural light in the depth of winter.

“People are racing to the refugee camps thinking life will be better there, but this is a false sense of security,” explains Samina. She and Habib met Reema, 25, who fled to the camp from Aleppo. Reema was so horrified at the camp’s conditions that she took her three children up to the isolated mountains, where she has to cook and wash outside. She is supported by blankets, hygiene kits and food distributions from Islamic Relief.

Providing support inside Syria was initially extremely difficult, and Islamic Relief has fought to gain access by working with local partners. Since early 2012 Islamic Relief has provided food, medical supplies and other assistance within the country as well as for the thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring countries.


Further information, interviews and photos/footage: Beverley Cohen on 07921 655272 ([email protected]).

Notes to Editors

1. The humanitarian situation in Syria is getting worse, with the number of refugees increasing dramatically, the number of internal displaced people going up and the number of people who depend entirely or partially on humanitarian aid increasing.

2. Prices of food, fuel and all goods and services have gone up. Before the war it cost 25 US cents for a litre of fuel, it now costs one and a quarter US dollars.

3. Islamic Relief has been supporting refugees on the borders of Syria since the start of the emergency. Although families found safety, they left everything else behind. Through our existing offices in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, we have provided over 30,000 people with essential items like food, hygiene kits, life-saving medical supplies and treatment. We are managing camps, starting classes to ensure children don’t miss out on their education, and giving psychosocial support to those affected by their experiences.

4. Islamic Relief is an international aid and development charity, which aims to alleviate the suffering of the world’s poorest people. It is an independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded in the UK in 1984 by Dr Hany El Banna.

5. As well as responding to disasters and emergencies, Islamic Relief promotes sustainable economic and social development by working with local communities – regardless of race, religion or gender. Islamic Relief is also one of the 14 UK charities that form the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee

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