UNICEF mobilizes life-saving support, but says risks of disease outbreak remain
Several thousand children are among an estimated 12,000 Iraqi refugees now sheltering at a camp in neighbouring Syria after crossing the remote border between the two countries.
UNICEF officials say that for the first time in nearly two weeks since Yazidi families started arriving at Nawrouz camp on the outskirts of Al Malikiya, the flow of desperate people coming across seems to be easing, with no new arrivals registered at the camp in the last two days.
Even so, aid agencies are bracing for more arrivals, expanding the camp facilities by building additional toilets and improving the water supply.
UNICEF officials say there has been a steady improvement in the conditions, since UN agencies joined forces with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), local charities, the local Kurdish Relief Committee and civil society began providing food, water, shelter, clothing and medicines. Even so, concerns remain.
"Things are better but there’s still a real risk that we will see an outbreak of waterborne diseases,” said Eltayeb Adam, who heads UNICEF’s office in the provincial capital, Qamishli. “Our biggest concerns are the poor sanitary conditions in the camp and the urgent need for clean water, especially in the current extreme heat.”
Over 3,000 water purification tablets are among the lifesaving supplies UNICEF teams have delivered to Nawrouz camp, along with high energy biscuits and clothes for children, medical soap, diarrhea and midwifery kits, sanitary napkins, and garbage collection bags. Additional emergency supplies are expected soon in nearby Qamishly.
Aid officials say the Yazidi refugees – and children in particular – arrived in Syria in a state of extreme exhaustion after walking long distances in the summer heat. Each has a story to tell of their horrific ordeal.
One mother, clutching a tiny baby, described how she had given birth while fleeing through the mountains.
“It was a difficult labour, lasting from 8 in the evening until 5 the next morning,” she told UNICEF. “I had to continue walking less than three days later.”
Another Yazidi refugee, a father of six children said: “We walked for days, without food or water. We want to leave this region and go somewhere where there is peace.
The arrival of the Yazidi refugees in Syria comes as the country continues to grapple with the huge humanitarian consequences of the country’s ongoing civil war which has affected an estimated 10.8 million people.
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