Noxious and unsafe | Refugee camps’ inhabitants turn to alternative materials for heating
With the lack of several materials used for heating, like gasoline, almost completely as well as their unaffordable prices if found, people in north Syria region, particularly displaced people, have turned to use other alternative materials for heating during winter. However, such materials are so noxious and unsafe.
Illustrating the negative effects of the alternative materials used for heating on health, a doctor known by his initials as M.A. working at a hospital near displaced people’s gatherings said to SOHR “the alternative materials used for heating have many harmful effects on the human body, especially the materials used recently by many poor displaced families, like plastic bags and used clothes. Breathing in gases from these materials causes laryngitis, rhinosinusitis, nausea, suffocation and cancer. Furthermore, these gases delay the recovery of patients suffering from several illnesses like asthma, runny nose and cold, and they also have more dangerous effects on children, infants and people suffering from immunodeficiency. Hospitals and medical centres receive many cases daily suffering from suffocations and difficulty in breathing, mostly inhabitants of refugee camps. However, the pollution in the region does not help these cases to be healed ‘appropriately’.”
In a testimony to SOHR, a displaced woman known as A.S. who spends several hours every day searching for every flammable object in order to secure heating for her family in one of Deir Hassan camps in the northern countryside of Idlib, said “we even do not think about buying gasoline for heating as it ‘is out of reach’ for its unaffordable price, while the price of logs and wood approximates nearly 140 USD per ton, so I am forced to use plastic, garbage and very worn and used clothes. I have five children and my husband is extremely poor and out of a job. Since the start of winter, I have searched for and collect logs, wood and plastic on a daily basis, so that I can use these materials for heating. My children suffer from cough and runny nose, but I have no other solutions.”
Another displaced man known as A.A. sends his children to collect thin sticks and plastic bags to use them as a “fuel” for his wood-burner stove. He told SOHR “I have been displaced with my family from Jabal Shashaboo area in Hama countryside, and I live now in a refugee camp in Armanaz town in north-western Idlib. My living condition deteriorated greatly after the displacement and I only depend on thin sticks and plastic bags that my children collect for heating. I bought little amount of pyrene extracted from olive. We have so many troubles because of the use of such substances and we hope that winter will over so soon, as these substances are so dangerous on the health of children.”
Pyrene, plastic, garbage, very worn clothes, used oil, coal and other materials are largely used in refugee camps in north Syria region. Such materials and substances are not only noxious on the people’s health, but also they cause fires in the tents, which on many occasions left fatalities.