In the past six weeks, Syria´s Dara´a Governorate has seen a surge of 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) as fighting continues in the southern part of the country. In search of safety, many have fled to surrounding farmlands, but there is very little shelter for them there. Médecins Sans Frontières responded to this crisis with an emergency distribution of 893 kits of essential relief items to farmlands just east of Dara´a City and the village of Al Nuayma. An Médecins Sans Frontières pharmacist who helped organize the distribution described the conditions on the ground and the challenges thousands of Syrians still face in the struggle to survive.
“We distributed relief items in two areas, both are on the frontlines of the conflict. The situation is incredibly dangerous. People in Al Nuayma are there because they have no other choice. People in the farmlands around Dara´a are in tents, buildings meant for water tanks and wells or other structures that have been destroyed. Eighty per cent of the buildings in the area are in ruins. Families sleep on the floor and there are five or seven people in one room. There are some children, but a lot of elderly people. The temperatures inside their tents are uncomfortably high. They are accustomed to these conditions, however to us, it felt like an oven.
"At one point, while we were distributing, there was some bombing nearby but it didn´t interrupt our work"
The strangest thing is that people are adapting to the violence also. We saw children looking up at the sky, watching the airplanes as they bombed Dara´a City. Médecins Sans Frontières distributes differently than other NGOs. Normally, NGOs go to one place in a village, a crowd of people gather, and the goods are distributed one by one. In South Syria, the violence means we cannot risk creating those crowds. It´s just so dangerous and we may be targeted. At one point, while we were distributing, there was some bombing nearby but it didn´t interrupt our work.
In Al Nuayma, the city council helped us manage the process. They hired trucks that moved between the houses and the frontlines. This way we avoided creating a crowd. In the farmlands, the road is muddy and you cannot move freely, so we take the items to certain places and distribute to several families at a time. People living in the farmlands have nothing. They are far from the market and there is no clean water, no safe sources of heat and scarce food. The relief kits contain things like soap and hygiene items which are useful in infection control. With mattresses and blankets, people can rest more easily.
I fear the situation will become worse. To the West of the area, IS-affiliated groups are mounting attacks on villages. People have no choice but to move towards Dara´a City. The civic council has informed us that they expect thousands more people.”