Tens of thousands of Syrians are enduring a brutal winter in flimsy tents spread across the country’s northwest. Temperatures have plummeted below zero while heavy rains have brought floods that have swept away tents and soaked people’s bedding and clothes. With heaters and fuel scarce, many have struggled to combat the freezing temperatures and dry out their homes.
The Oscar-nominated Aleppo Media Centre (AMC) spent late December and January filming in displacement camps in the Syrian province of Idlib, capturing footage of the flooding and speaking to residents who say they are desperate for aid in the form of fuel, food and clothes. With more storms predicted, this need is likely to increase.
Though aid and humanitarian organisations like the White Helmets are beginning to reach the camps, AMC say they are not numerous enough nor well-resourced enough to help all of the displaced. In recent months, international governments have cut aid to local organisations in northwest Syria, fearing the money could fall into militants’ hands, particularly the extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has seized territory across the region. As a result, three million civilians, including more than a million displaced people, face being deprived of basic needs like healthcare and education.
In the camps, AMC found that 70% of the tents they visited had flooded, with some people forced to uproot their homes and move them to higher land to get away from the water. Many residents said this situation was inevitable—a consequence of living in tents that are old and not sufficiently weather-proofed.
“We had no other option. We were forced to come here,” says Nadine, who lost five family members to airstrikes and lives in Atmeh camp, Idlib. “We have no refuge except here. We have been hit by floods, everything we owned was soaked. In the summer we can’t bear the heat and in the winter we sink in the floods. There is no middle solution ever.”
The dire conditions in the camps are the direct result of the inadequacy of humanitarian funding, a situation that has been exacerbated by recent cuts in funding. Unless the international community increases funding to match the needs of the local population, this humanitarian crisis is only likely to worsen.