Flash flooding, caused by unusually heavy rainfall, has forced more than 12,000 people to abandon their homes in camps for the internally displaced in northern Syria.
Many have been left with nothing and little protection from the freezing conditions. With more rains expected, the number of those displaced could rise significantly in the next few days.
The heavy rainfall, which began on 26 December, has already washed away hundreds of canvas tents housing displaced people in various informal camps along the Turkish border.
Ahmed Mahmoud, Islamic Relief’s Syria spokesman said:
“It’s a tragic situation for the people who were already living in dire conditions; in flimsy tents with temperatures dropping to below zero Celsius in the evenings. Then they were forced out into the open air under torrential rain. People were already weakened by the lack of food, water and sanitation in the camps and now they are literally struggling to survive.
“It’s very concerning that the number of families affected will rise in the coming days as the water recedes and the extent of damage becomes clear. Idlib is currently struggling to accommodate millions of displaced people.”
The affected areas are mostly informal displaced camps in flood-prone zones with poor drainage in and around Atma, Karama, Dana, Sarmada, Al Bab, Atareb and Qah.
Umm Adnan, a 58-year-old mother of seven, lost all her belongings in the floods when her tent was fully submerged by the rains.
Like many other Syrians living in Idlib, she was already displaced by the fighting five years ago, and has yet again been left with nothing.
“Where will we go now?” asks Umm Adnan. “Even our tents have collapsed and swept away by torrential rains. We no longer have any place to live. What are we going to do, I feel very overwhelmed.
“We are in a deplorable state, we have lost everything, the rain has flooded the camps; the children and women have been displaced, we don’t know where our children will sleep today.
“We need new tents and plastic protectors against the rain. Our beds have all become unusable. We need bedding and blankets as well. We hope you will be able to help us and save our lives.”
In the short-term, Islamic Relief will be providing plastic sheeting and blankets to those directly affected. The organisation also hopes to deploy machines to drain the water and to provide gravel for the roads to make sure that the drainage vehicles can access the affected areas. Several roads that lead to the affected sites have been damaged and vehicles have become stuck.
Alongside this emergency response, Islamic Relief is providing vouchers to 80,000 people in northern Syria so they can afford to buy blankets, coats, shoes, socks, heaters, carpets and fuel for heating as part of its Winter Campaign to keep people warm.
Islamic Relief has been working in Syria since the start of the crisis providing food, shelter, warm clothing, water and sanitation and health care to over four million people, mainly in the north of the country.
We are also providing support to enable medical centres, ambulances and bakeries to continue to operate.
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