Amidst the ongoing battle for Raqqa and the multi-sided race to capture Deir ez-Zour, internally displaced people living in camps in eastern Syria, which include some of the country’s most barren desert areas, are facing extreme conditions and a lack of basic necessities.
Often without water, food and aid, and suffering from occasional climatic issues such as destructive sandstorms, activists have labelled these zones as “Camps of Death”. The activists are attempting to raise international awareness about the living conditions for the people living in these camps, amidst a dire need for help and aid.
Among the most prominent include several camps in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Province. These include: Rajm al-Sulaibi camp, east of the town of Kobeiba and on the border with Iraq, which hosts 4,000 families; al-Hol camp (also known as al-Hawl) also near the Iraq-Syria border, which hosts 4,000 people; al-Sadd camp in the south of the province, which hosts 6,000 people; and Mabrouha camp, located in the northern city of Ras al-Ayn, which hosts 3,000 people.
Further south near the Syria-Iraq-Jordan triangle lies the Rukban camp. Considerably larger, hosting 860,000 individuals, the Rukban camp suffers from the same shortages as all of the others. Hot temperatures, and a lack of garbage and sanitation facilities have dramatically increased the suffering for the displaced in the camp. The camp also remains the site of sporadic attacks by ISIS militants, who seek to increase the suffering of those who have already lost everything. This has been a key feature of ISIS’ tactics against internally displaced people across the region.
As a result of these conditions, contagious and often life-threatening diseases have started to spread around the camp. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in June that 15 new cases of polio were reported in ISIS-held Raqqa, while 58 cases were reported in the first half of this year in Deir ez-Zour.