Iraq: Growing number of Syrian refugees in Domeez

Michael Goldfarb/MSFSyrian Kurdish refugee children stand with their mother on a road in the Domeez camp in northwest Iraqi Kurdistan.

The registered number of refugees gathering at the Domeez camp, near the city of Dohuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq, is increasing daily. While 700 to 1,000 newcomers are registering every day the services provided in the camp remain insufficient to cope with mounting needs.

Every day up to 1000 people cross the border between Syria and the Kurdish region of Iraq. People travel hours across rocky roads to escape from Syria.

“We left because of war,” says a woman. “We came from Qamishli. The city is completely besieged, there’s no fuel for heaters, no water, no electricity. The trip was really difficult and long because we went through the mountains. I have five very young children and they all had to walk. We had to go through much suffering to get here but thank God we arrived.”

Domeez camp was established in Duhok province in April 2012 and was initially designed to host 1,000 families. But with more than 35,000 people the camp is now overcrowded and the level of assistance is clearly insufficient. Despite the efforts of the local authorities the camp is stretched to its full capacity and aid workers struggle to keep up with the needs of all the residents.

Today, the lack of shelter for newcomers is critical. Most of the newly arrived refugees must share tents, blankets, mattresses and even their food with other families.

MSF is the main health provider in the camp, providing an average of 3,500 consultations per week and has doubled the number of human resources working on the project. The pathologies observed in our consultations are mainly related to poor living conditions aggravated by the bitter winter that hit the region earlier this year.

"In our consultations half of the patients we see suffer from respiratory infections,” says Emilie Khaled MSF field coordinator. Proximity, with more than ten people sharing the same tent, contributes to the spread of diseases. Today, with milder temperatures and very poor water and sanitation system we are seeing an increase in diarrhoea cases. Urgent solutions must be found to improve people’s living conditions in the camp.”  

MSF activities in Domeez

Since May 2012, MSF is the main healthcare provider in Domeez refugee camp. MSF teams provide general healthcare as well as mental healthcare. MSF has also started a reproductive health programme.

To respond to the influx of people into the camp, MSF has reinforced its teams bringing to 60 the total number of international and national staff employed by the organisation.

To date, MSF medical teams have provided more than 64,800 consultations and are planning to vaccinate against measles 31,000 people between the ages of six months and 30 years.

In addition, MSF also distributes hygiene kits and conducts water supply and sanitation. Since mid-January, MSF teams distributed 160,000 litres of water to 1,800 families. Over the past week MSF distributed 3,500 hygiene kits and plans to distribute 4,500 additional kits by the end of April.

More than a million people have fled the civil war in Syria to neighbouring countries. Among them, many have decided to flee to Iraq. According to UNHCR, as of end of March 2013, the Kurdish Region Government (KRG) hosts over 125.000 Syrian refugees.