Ad-hoc refugee camps, not organized by any formal body or humanitarian organization, are all that many Syrians throughout the country have to call home. Due to the unorganized nature of the camps, they lack medical services and other important essential services, but still provide a degree of safety as they pop up in areas not usually bombed by the Syrian regime.
In the western Daraa countryside, one such camp, called the Zayzoun IDP Camp, formed in a former military base for the Ba’ath Vanguards several months after the revolution began. According to the person in charge of statistics for the camp, Abu Mohammed, there are currently 534 families living in the camp, or about 3,500 people. Most of them, he says, are from the countrysides of Daraa, Damascus, and Quneitra, although some come from as far as Homs and Idlib.
The camp is one of the first to be set up in southern Syria, and is administered by a group of displaced residents living in the camp. The residents provide for themselves according to their limited resources.
In speaking with the Syrian Voice, Abu Mohammed said that “the camp suffers from overcrowding, which has forced some to turn their bathrooms into regular rooms. There is also a problem with disposing garbage and the lack of food and health services. There is a risk of typhoid spreading more in the camp in the near future.”
Abu Mohammed, a doctor in the western countryside, told the Syrian voice he had recorded 50 cases of typhoid, and that “when the medical committee arrived to the camp several days ago to check on the patients, we requested they go to the clinic in the nearby town of Tel Shuhayb for further tests.”
The cause, Dr. Mohammed says, is people ingesting contaminated water and vegetables that have been watered with contaminated water, on top of the lack of hygiene and spread of trash.
Typhoid is a bacterial disease caused by the typhi bacteria which is commonly spread through water and infects the liver, spleen, and lymphatic system.
Since the Zayzoun Lake went dry in the last two months, residents of the camps have resorted to the Fuwar Spring in the western Daraa countryside, which may not be a source of potable water. If residents want to buy water, it costs approximately SP100 a barrel, said Abu Mohammed.
Another camp resident, Abu Abdou, said “after the spread of typhoid, we started looking for new sources of water, including private wells in the neighboring town of Mazayrab.”
The problem of water will be compounded by the oncoming winter, when residents have to figure out how to buy wood or other fuels for cooking and eating while there are no opportunities for work said Abu Abdou.
No outside aid has been delivered to the camp in more than two months, forcing residents to rely even more on their own limited funds, added Abu Abdou.
The Camp’s administration issued a statement on August 22 appealing to the Free Daraa Health Directorate and the Early Warning Network to intervene immediately to help diagnose cases of typhoid in the camp, noting that the camp lacks the necessary medicine and treatments.