Only 30 percent of the more than 612,000 Syrian refugees actually live in camps. The rest, so-called urban refugees, have moved into neighborhoods where they crowd into rented apartments or abandoned buildings and compete for scarce resources and services. Their presence has caused prices of commodities and rents to soar and created resentment from the host population.
Many of the refugees fled with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Now, as an unusually harsh winter sets in, they are ill equipped to cope with cold weather.
Crisis inside Syria
Inside Syria, food, water and medicines are in short supply, several Syrian activists said in Skype interviews this week.
The Assad regime’s forces have targeted hospitals and doctors, depriving civilians access to medical care. Children are routinely kidnapped and tortured, and women raped.
“Many women and girls relayed accounts of being attacked in public or in their homes, primarily by armed men. These rapes, sometimes by multiple perpetrators, often occur in front of family members,” the report said.
“To say it is a humanitarian crisis at this point is a bit of an understatement,” said Yassar Bittar, a Washington-based member of the Syrian American Council, who earlier this month visited makeshift camps in Syria for those who have fled their homes.
While the camps are located in areas controlled by the rebels’ Free Syria Army, they are vulnerable to airstrikes by the regime’s jets.
Those lucky enough to leave Syria bear horrific physical and emotional scars.
Mr. Moumtzis recalled how a woman he met in Lebanon told him of her family’s nightmarish escape from Syria.
Syrian forces attacked the truck in which they were traveling and two of her children, who had been sitting in the back with her, were killed. She didn’t have the heart to tell her husband, who was also wounded, about their deaths. By the time they reached the Lebanese border, he too had died and she had to have both her legs amputated from her own wounds.
“It’s an extraordinary story, but it is also a common story,” said Mr. Moumtzis.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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