Former children's camp in south in urgent need of assistance

People are leaving Karama camp in the southern province of al-Qadisiyyah because of the terrible conditions there, and urgent supplies are needed to rectify the situation.

The camp, 15km to the west of Diwaniyah, the provincial capital, currently has 129 residents. It was previously a children's camp until its formal conversion into a centre to accommodate internally displaced persons (IDPs).

"In May 2007, Karama was reportedly home to 250 persons; of these, 21 families, or 129 individuals, remain. Those still at the site are extremely poor, and lack sufficient resources to relocate," a UN Refugee Agency [UNHCR] press release said.  

The items needed include, water, electricity, sanitation equipment, food and non-food items.

Basic health services are also needed. Jaffer Abbas, a spokesperson for the locally based Iraqi Peace Organisation (IPO), said at least 90 percent of the camp's residents were suffering from one kind of disease or another.

"Children are suffering from malnutrition, women have serious gynaecological problems caused by poor hygiene, and elderly people with life-threatening diseases don't have access to medicines," Abbas said, adding: "The nearest medical centre is very far from the camp and the residents have no money."

Al-Qadisiyyah Province is now closed to IDPs arriving from other parts of Iraq. In July, fighting and the bombing of major urban areas, led to families fleeing to safer areas in the province.

“Displacement in Diwaniyah continues as a result of insurgency, counter-insurgency, crime and a struggling economy,” Anita Raman, associate reporting officer for UNHCR’s Iraq Operation, said. “While Diwaniyah's [al-Qadisiyyah province] IDP population is less than most Iraqi governorates - 3,972 families - conditions for these IDPs are exacerbated by scarce basic services availability.”

''Children are suffering from malnutrition, women have serious gynaecological problems caused by poor hygiene, and elderly people with life-threatening diseases don't have access to medicines.''

According to UNHCR, the location is under-served and under-resourced, leading to extremely poor living conditions and the resulting departure of many families from the camp.

"UNHCR's field and partner staff have delivered life-essential items, and basic facility upgrades are on track for completion in the coming weeks. Much more is needed to support a safe and habitable environment in Karama," the agency said.

Abbas said that local NGOs and international agencies, such as UNHCR, are struggling to help Karama camp residents. “Water and food have to be delivered urgently to prevent a catastrophe in the area," he said.

"Karama camp, if helped, could be home again to dozens of other Iraqis urgently requiring assistance and a safer place to stay," Abbas added. "We hope international donors can help in assisting the most vulnerable camp in Diwaniyah."

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