Autonomous Administration faces coronavirus emergency alone

The coronavirus emergency has put almost the entire world on its knee. However, it has not yet been seen in the Autonomous Administration areas of North and East Syria.

The North and East Syrian Democratic Autonomous Administration areas, which consist of 7 regions and have a population of approximately 5 million, have limited resources and would be faced with great difficulties should an outbreak occur.

There are hundreds of thousands of refugees. A significant part of them are from the regions of Afrin, Serêkaniyê, Girê Spî and Til Temir, which have been occupied by the Turkish state.

In the Democratic Autonomous Administration areas, there are dozens of small camps as well as 15 big refugee camps. In the Cizire Region, there are also 2 camps with tens of thousands of women and children, mainly families of ISIS.

The Democratic Autonomous Administration takes care and meets the need of the refugees, despite its limited resources. However, no aid has yet been received from world health institutions and humanitarian organizations.

Hesekê, the most populated area

Hesekê Canton has a population of about 1 million 413 thousand. After the attacks and invasion carried out by the Turkish state on 9 October 2019, some 300 thousand refugees from Girê Spî, Serêkaniyê, Til Temir and the villages of Zirgan have been seeking shelter in Hesekê Canton.

Some of the refugees settled in rented houses, while refugees from Serêkaniyê and Til Temir stay in a total of 74 schools, 68 of which are the city center.

Three large refugee camps in the canton of Hesekê

In the canton there are three large camps:

Hol Camp: 67,555 people stay in Hol Camp, which is the largest refugee camp in the Democratic Autonomous Administration areas. 10,028 are ISIS foreign women and children. In addition in the camp there are 30,950 people from Iraq and 26,566 from Syria. The majority of these are thought to be women and children of ISIS mercenaries.

Waşokani Camp: The Waşokani camp, 12 kilometers west of the city of Hesekê, was opened after the Turkish state invaded Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî. Currently, 9,700 people from Serêkaniyê,  Til Temir and Zirgan live in the camp.

Arişe Camp: 13,445 people (2,733 families) remain in the old camp of Arişe. Here are the refugees who fled from the regions controlled by the Syrian regime, mostly from Deir Ezzor. Half of the refugees in the camp used to stay in Mabrûka camp. However, after the Turkish state and its mercenaries launched their invasion attacks against Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî, the refugees were transferred to the Arişe camp.

Turkey cut water supply

Since the invasion of the Serêkaniyê, the Turkish state has cut water from the Serêkaniyê Elok to the Hesekê Canton, where over 200,000 refugees live.

Despite the coronavirus threat, on 21 March, Turkey once again cut water supply. 

Although UNICEF stated that an essential resource such as water could not be used within the framework of political and military interests and that the Elûk station closed by the Turkish state serves the needs of 460,000 people, water supply has still not been provided.

Two camps in Qamishlo

Qamishlo has two refugee camps. 

- Newroz Camp: Newroz Camp was established for Yazidi people who escaped from the Shengal Massacre carried out by ISIS in August 2014 and took refuge in Rojava. After the liberation of Shengal from ISIS mercenaries, many Yazidi people were able to return to Shengal.

379 people (81 families) are staying in the camp: they are from the villages of Girê Spî, Serêkaniyê and Til Temir.

- Roj Camp: 1833 people (521 families), foreign women and children 1535 people (429 families), Iraqi people 220 (78 families), Syrian people 68 (14 families).

Camps in Tabqa, Raqqa, Manbij

Camps have also been established in Tabqa, Raqqa and Manbij.

Til Semin Camp: The Til Semin Camp is in the region of Raqqa and houses 2,288 people from the villages of Girê Spî, Eyn Isa and Kobanê. 

Mahmud Camp: In this camp in the region of Tabka there are 8, 176 people who have fled the regions under the control of the Syrian regime and whose houses have been destroyed during fighting in Deir Ezzor, Tabka and Raqqa.

In addition to these two camps, there are also 3 refugee camps in Manbij, which was liberated from ISIS on 15 August 2016 and is constantly threatened by the Turkish state.

Old East Manbij Camp: 2,442 people (378 families) from the east of Aleppo are staying here, coming from regime-controlled areas.

New East Manbij Camp: 2,912 people (564 families) remain in the camp, they are mainly from Aleppo and its surroundings.

Cedidet al Humir Camp: In this camp, which is 26 kilometers south of Manbij, there are Idlib people who have fled the last Idlib war. Opened on 25 March 2020, this camp now houses 300 people from Idlib.

There are also dozens of unofficial small, scattered camps in the deserts around Manbij, Raqqa and Tabqa. Also, as in other regions, there are refugees staying in Manbij city center.

Camps in Shehba

Nearly 100,000 people from Shehba and over 100,000 people from Afrin, live in the 74 villages of Shehba, liberated from ISIS, and in the city of Til Rifat.

There are 5 refugee camps in Shehba, housing refugees from Afrin who fled the city after the Turkish occupation in 2018.

Weger Camp: 104 families, for a total of 455 people

Shehba Camp: 96 families, for a total of 459 people

Serdem Camp: 751 families, for a total of 3,085 people

Berxwedan Camp: 723 families for a total of 2,647 people

Afrin Camp: 91 families, for a total of 398 people

Democratic Autonomous Administration Refugees and Camps Office Executive for Jazira Camps, Rojhat Ali, pointed out that with the limited possibilities of the Autonomous Administration, only simple measures could be be taken for the camps.

"As a precaution, we have stopped commuting to camps in order not to get infected. We had a meeting with all the doctors in Rojava and discussed what measures we could take for the camps. We are trying to raise awareness among the people against the virus and the epidemic by distributing leaflets in the camps."

The basic needs of refugees are met by the communes in the camps. "It is not possible for the Autonomous Administration to do more than this at the moment because of the limited resources. International health institutions and humanitarian organizations should play their role to avoid a humanitarian disaster."

Rojhat Ali stated that they held 2 meetings last week with the Democratic Autonomous Administration Health Council, Heyva Sor a Kurd and 33 aid organizations in the region.

"During these meetings, we talked about all the camps in North and East Syria. The representatives of UNICEF and the Red Cross attended these meetings. It is necessary for them to take measures for all camps. For those who can be sick outside the camps, hospitals such as field hospitals must be established.

We made suggestions to international aid organizations. First of all, a committee needs to be established and it should start working immediately, before it is too late. Aid agencies and the World Health Organization have not yet responded to us. They will clarify their attitude in the coming days. They have not done any work in other camps so far. Aid organizations have limited work in the Hol and Roj Camp."

Şexmûz Ehmed, co-chair of the Office of Refugee Affairs of the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, said: "Hundreds of thousands of refugees in the areas of North and East Syrian Democratic Autonomous Administration have basic needs to be met and health problems. The Autonomous Administration carries out its humanitarian duty, but cannot meet it all the needs with its limited resources.

This is an international mission. We call on the UN, the World Health Organization, and all international organizations concerned with human rights and health to deal with the issue."

Ehmed added: "Hol Camp is the largest camp in the Middle East. Families of foreign ISIS mercenaries mostly stay in the camp. The International Coalition and the EU should support the camps in the region. If the coronavirus spreads in the region, it would put the whole region in danger. There should be an international pressure on the Turkish state to stop using water supply as a war tool. Hundreds of thousands of people are without water."