IDPs in Syria’s Raqqa complain about lack of humanitarian aid

RAQQA, Syria (North Press) – Anoud al-Mousa, 35, an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) in Hawija al-Sawafi camp in south of Raqqa, northern Syria, leaves her three children with their grandmother, and goes to work in the early morning in farmlands near the camp.

Al-Mousa, like all the IDPs in the camp in which she lives, has not received relief aid for months. She tries to secure her children’s daily bread by the little money she earns through her work in the fields.

The IDPs who live in the scatter camps in Raqqa countryside, complain about lack of humanitarian aid provided to them in light of harsh living conditions in the camps.

Despite their tents being repeatedly torn due to the frequent dust storms in the area, humanitarian aid is “very scarce” and hardly reaches them, sometimes takes up to an entire year, according to IDPs in the aforementioned camp.

Al-Mousa, an IDP from the eastern countryside of Homs, describes her situation in the camp while wrapping her face in a black scarf. “Our situation is very bad,” she said.

According to the IDPs North Press has met, the lack of aid is something common among all the camps in Raqqa countryside.

They say that whenever they complain to officials in Raqqa about the lack of aid, the officials would attribute it to “the closure of the crossings and the lack of humanitarian aid provided” to the areas held by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The AANES was first formed in 2014 in the Kurdish-majority regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazira in northern Syria following the withdrawal of the government forces. Later, it was expanded to Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the AANES military wing, defeated ISIS militarily.

Closing the lifeline

The closure of al-Ya’rubiyah (Tel Kocher) border-crossing is still in place, preventing the entry of humanitarian aid into the areas of northeastern Syria.

Al-Ya’rubiyah border crossing is located in northeastern Syria on the Syrian-Iraqi border and was the most official crossing between the two countries prior to the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Since January 2020, the crossing has been closed to UN humanitarian aid to northeast Syria due to a Russian-Chinese veto in the Security Council.

Appeals by the AANES’ officials and IDPs to the UN are taking place regularly, asking it to keep providing the area with the needed aid, which will be easy to deliver if al-Ya’rubiyah crossing is reopened.

Before the closure, the camps in northeastern Syria relied primarily on the aid received through the crossing, which was considered a lifeline for the region.

But closing it has worsened the living conditions for those affected by the war, according to a previous statement by Sheikhmous Ahmad, head of the IDPs and Refugees Office of the AANES.

There are 58 squatter camps in the countryside of Raqqa, which are scattered among towns and villages. Most of the IDPs who live in these camps came from the areas held by the Syrian government such as Hama, Homs, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor.

These camps house around 90.000 IDPs, comprising 16.165 families, according to an official statistic obtained by North Press from the Office of Camps and IDPs Affairs in the Raqqa Civil Council.

Lack of aid

Mnawwar al-Majid, head of the Office of Camps and IDPs Affairs in the Raqqa Civil Council, agrees with the IDPs regarding the severe shortage of humanitarian aid in the camps.

Al-Majid said that the poor humanitarian conditions experienced by the IDPs are caused by the lack of aid and the crossing’s closure.

He warned that sacrificing the issue of humanitarian aid for political purposes will have adverse effects on the IDPs, making them pay the “greatest price.”

Most of the IDPs depend on seasonal farm work which is limited to the summer, while in winter it is rare to get a job opportunity, which worsens their situation.

Hadiya al-Jasim, 40, an IDP in the same camp, said that most of those who live in camps are women, children and elderly, and they are in “urgent need for humanitarian aid.”

In case they managed to find a job in farmlands and secure some cash, most of the IDPs focus on buying their necessities such as sugar, and vegetable oil, she added to North Press.

“Ignoring the suffering of IDPs who live in camps only exacerbates their misery and increases their burdens,” she said.

Reporting by Ammar Abdullatif