The first strong heat wave hit northeast Syria this summer.
QAMISHLI/DAMASCUS, Syria (UNHCR) This heat wave compounded the already difficult lives of more than 7,000 newly arrived Iraqi refugees in Al-Hol camp and surrounding areas in the remote Al-Hassakeh governorate. With temperatures regularly topping 48 degrees Celsius, UNHCR scales up its response “the temperatures are immense, we work against the clock to reinforce the shelters, but the problem is this heat will continue for another few weeks.” Said Mustafa Hasan, UNHCR’s field officer in Qamishli.
UNHCR is working with local NGO partners to provide humanitarian assistance to the new arrivals, most of whom are without adequate shelter, sanitary facilities, and medical care.
As well as distributing tents, mattresses and sleeping mats, UNHCR is also coordinating efforts to provide healthcare to refugees, with many suffering from skin diseases and other health conditions due to heat and dust exposure during the long journey. “Doctors say that they see significant numbers of heat related symptoms especially among the children and the elderly.” Hassan explained, “We work with partners to allocate healthcare mobile services to adapt to the situation”.
The response to the high temperatures is being hampered by the fact that the electricity is intermittent.
The Al-Hol camp was originally established in 2004 to host Iraqis and later Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict in Iraq. It was closed in June 2010 when the last of the Palestinian refugees moved to Damascus, but reopened in February 2016 to accommodate the latest influx of Iraqi refugees.
Together with its partners, UNHCR is assessing Al-Hol and other hosting sites in the region for further upgrade and rehabilitation ahead of a possible fresh influx of refugees fleeing fighting for control of Mosul and surrounding areas. In last May, UNHCR organized five airlifts of emergency items such as tents and blankets from Jordan to Qamishli with aid enough to support up to 50,000 Iraqi refugees and Syrians hosting them in local communities. Additional food supplies and essential items were airlifted by multiple UN agencies since then.
Hassaka Governorate hosts some 90,000 Syrians displaced by the country’s long-running conflict as well as more than 16,000 Iraqi refugees. Hassaka is currently inaccessible to UN aid deliveries by land from inside Syria and via Turkey to the north due to insecurity.