As flood waters in northern Syria begin to retreat, hundreds living in displacement camps battle through knee-high mud to assess the damage to their tents and begin to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
Earlier this week, heavy rain washed out displacement camps across Idlib province, leaving at least one woman and her child dead.
“Idlib’s northern Syrian camps are drowning in rainwater and mud that has turned thousands of shelters from Jisr Al Shoughour to Atma near the Turkish border into disaster areas,” said Kamal Al Hasan, an aid worker with relief NGO Organisation Violet in rural Aleppo.
When a mortar attack levelled her home in Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib, Jamila Kafore moved to a tented settlement for displaced people. Jamila, whose husband was killed in the war, described how water leaked through the roof of their tent while she and her children were sheltering from the rain-soaked night.
“The rain was falling heavily on Saturday, it was like an open tap. For full day and night,” she said. “While we were removing water for two hours constantly during that freezing night, we had the tent falling on us after the rain and wind got aggressive.
“A pile of mud, that is what has been left to me,” she said.
“Why did we run away from bombing and end up like this, why is this is not coming to an end?” Jamila asked. “I don't mind living in a devastated house instead of living in a fragile plastic box that can’t stand blows,” she said, but added that the bombardments that forced them to flee had not stopped for them to return home.
Fourteen camps for internally displaced people in Idlib governorate have been impacted by the flooding, affecting around 40,000 people, blocking roads and closing schools and hospitals, the World Food Programme's Syria spokeswoman Marwa Awad told The National.
“Aleppo governorate, which also hosts a significant number of IDPs, was also affected with tents destroyed in several camps. A hospital in rural Aleppo was also shut down due to the flooding. Some 40 villages were also reportedly flooded in Qamishli city in Al Hassakeh governorate,” she said.
The UN is distributing food and supplies and has deployed heavy machinery to dig water channels and dykes to clear floodwater and stop more areas being affected.
“Should rains continue, there are concerns that dams could be at risk of flooding,” Ms Awad said.
Mohammad Hallajh, the director of local NGO Response Coordination Group, said that although this is not the first time heavy rain had washed out camps in the area, recent fighting and shelling had displaced a large number of people. This meant that the numbers living in the camps has been swelling in recent weeks.
Ayman, who is living in Bair-Balot displacement camp in south-eastern Idlib, said that there were now four or five families per tent.
The 31-year-old father of three said: “My three children got badly ill with a high temperature and stomach ache and one has been vomiting blood as a result of the critical cold he got during the nightmare we had yesterday’s night.”
He says the family have lost everything – clothes, bedding and belongings. “Even my phone was lost in the thick mud,” he said.
“We are tired of this, if we plead for the end to all of this brutal war and humiliation, who would listen and stop everything to let us go back to our homes safely? Probably no one.”