The battle for Raqqa is drawing to a close as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) take the remaining ISIS-held areas of the city.
In the ensuing fighting, over 100,000 people have been displaced from Raqqa City alone. Yet, in the wider province to which Raqqa is the provincial capital, UNHCR reports that more than 300,000 people have been displaced since 1st April this year.
According to reports on the ground, the SDF have regained over 90% of the city, with approximately four thousand civilians left under ISIS control. Many of these have been taken as human shields, and barricaded in the city’s stadium and National Hospital, as ISIS attempts to hold onto the last pockets of its once Syrian stronghold.
For those displaced, a lack of aid has become an ongoing and key concern. The large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), coupled with aid agencies’ financial shortages and security concerns, have made delivering aid to the most vulnerable extremely difficult. As a result, civilians often have to live without clean water or stable foods, further negatively impacting their lives, which have been shattered by ISIS rule and the ongoing war.
“We do not have firewood, we go to bring the firewood and we find it wet,” said one elderly woman from Raqqa, now living in the Touihinah Camp. “We cook but the food is never ripe, and sometimes our children cry from hunger.”
Although local agencies, such as the Tabqa Civilian Council, are providing bread and a cistern of cold water, this is not enough to meet the needs of the 1175 families at Touihinah Camp, who bemoan the shortages and their living conditions.
The conditions of the Touihinah Camp mirror those in other camps across northern Syria, particularly in Deir ez-Zour and Hasakah Provinces. Such activists and onlookers have even termed these camps as the “camps of death” in order to raise awareness for the hundreds of thousands who are suffering in high temperatures and with little external support.