Listening and Learning – Shariya Camp
Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation (BHHF) proactively seeks to understand needs across a wide array of refugee camps having a very diverse population base. In May 2017 BHHF took their professional team to Shariya Camp to better understand their specific challenges and needs and to create a targeted response to meet these needs.
BHHF learned and witnessed first-hand a camp struggling to meet the needs of the refugees it serves. Major issues identified were its lack of food to feed its population and keep people from starving. At least 20 families are going hungry every month. This camp is quite large yet only five supervisors oversee management leaving huge gaps in response time or even access for the residents seeking advice or help as there is no centralized place for people to turn.
Also contributing to lack of access is the split created because of overpopulation, effectively creating two separate clusters of this camp. The farthest cluster is located more than two kilometers from the medical centre. Without proper access to medical services the camp is at serious risk for infectious disease breakouts and other commonly acquired contagious illnesses prone to places and people living in such conditions. Additionally, the medical centre was hurriedly put together and construction is quite poor. There is need for a close proximity birthing centre and additional medical centre to meet the higher demand.
Refugee camps have some rather common problems one of which is sanitation, which also contributes to the spread of disease, Shariya Camp is no exception. The sewer system needs to be replaced and additional bathrooms with toilets need to be increased as the population of the camp is stressed to maximum capacity, so too the infrastructure needs to grow to accommodate this need.
4,000 tents meant for temporary use have become permanent housing. The Government provided these tents in partnership with UNHCR; however, after three years of use all tents need replacing. The security of both refugees and people living in the surrounding community is of utmost importance. Security fences originally provided by Afat surrounding the refugee camp need repair with gaping holes and other breaches there have been problems with dogs and wolves. Young people with idle time have managed to make their way into the surrounding community and trouble has resulted.
1,700 children ages 1-3 are in desperate need of milk powder. Vitamins and proper nutrition lead to healthy children and decreased need for medical attention. Learning is also very important, there is currently one kindergarten and no playground. The camp needs two additional kindergartens each having the capacity to school 500 children. There are also 6,752 students attending 5 primary schools across the camp. These five schools are overcrowded, not conducive to learning and totally ineffective at present. This is an issue requiring urgent resolution.
Kitchen and bathroom cleaning supplies and other materials are urgently needed to maintain proper sanitation and hygiene. With no way to properly clean living, eating and personal hygiene areas spread of disease is common.
The Government places refugees’ in these Camps which has been seen as temporary shelter for people fleeing war and other people displaced by reasons they cannot control. Returning home though seems unlikely as there are no homes remaining to return to, no peace among people and political instability creates a situation for these people that becomes permanent not temporary. Given the permanency of their situation the identified issues become even more urgent to address and while resolution is not easy or simple it is necessary. This is not only a problem to be seen as that of the Refugee, but one for society in general and for concerned people everywhere.