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Friday, January 18, 2013

Winter Brings Misery to Syria Refugees

Khaled al-Hariri, a Syrian refugee who died on Tuesday in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, according to activists. Khaled al-Hariri, a Syrian refugee who died on Tuesday in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, according to activists.

For Syrian refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, winter has brought bitter new hardship and at least one death.

More than 50,000 people are estimated to live in the Zaatari camp, roughly one-third of the nearly 150,000 Syrians who have sought refuge in Jordan from the 22-month-long conflict gripping their country. As my colleagues Rick Gladstone and Nick Cumming-Bruce have reported, wind and rainy weathe this week wrecked scores of refugee dwellings in Zaatari, where many tents flooded or collapsed. People were left shivering in the cold, and outrage soon boiled over in a riot that injured 11 people, more than half of them aid workers from the charity group Save the Children. It was the latest in at least four violent episodes in recent weeks between refugees, aid workers and the police.

Video of the Zaatari camp on Monday, posted online by Syrian activists, showed an area almost as large as a football field covered in shallow, muddy water. Inside a soaked tent, a young boy told the cameraman that he and his family, including his injured father, “went to a neighbor’s tent because of the water.”

Tents in the Zaatari refugee camp were fl! ooded with shallow, muddy water on Monday.

The suffering in Zaatari was given a human face on Wednesday when an activist uploaded a moving video interview with a refugee named Khaled al-Hariri, an amputee who described the difficulty of getting proper medical care in the camp. According to the activist, Abushakraa Horanee, Mr. Hariri died on Tuesday night before the video was uploaded to Facebook and then copied to a Syrian activist YouTube channel. Mr. Horanee, the filmmaker, called Mr. Hariri “the martyr of negligence and cold.”

Video of Khaled al-Hariri, a Syrian reugee in Jordan, accusing camp doctors of negligence.

In the video, Mr. Hariri, who lost a leg in Syria before fleeing to Jordan, said he suffered from a range of respiratory problems that went untreated by camp doctors. Mr. Hariri broke down crying as he explained his health problems and alleged negligence and poor treatment on the part of doctors in the camp, which is run by the United Nations. “I don’t even want my health to improve,” he said. “I want my brothers’ health, the people all around me, to improve.”

Describing his ill health, Mr. Hariri said: “I have hoarseness, chest pain and mucus. With my leg pain. Here my leg, all of it, is inflamed. My chest also, my chest is inflamed.”

When asked if camp doctors provided a diagnosis, Mr. Hariri responded:

Diagnosed No one diagnosed me. I stayed here for three months and no doctor gave me a proper drug, no doctor told me, ‘here is a drug for that,’ no doctor gave me anything. I j! ust want ! something that will give me some relief. I just want something to give me some relief, that’s all. Painkillers. They didn’t give me that. I don’t know, what can I do

Asked how doctors in the camp hospital responded to his visit, he said:

Their response I would go at night from here to the emergency room and call on them and tell them, ‘My brother, for God’s sake….’ I would tell the ambulance driver: ‘My brother, for God’s sake, I swear I can’t breathe. I need oxygen, I need oxygen.’ So the ambulance would arrive and they wouldn’t even pick me up themselves. My brother, the broken one, would pick me and my uncle. They would pick me up and put me in the ambulance. Is that O.K.

I would go and sit there. I’d be wearing this track suit while it’s cold outside. I would ask, where is the doctor for him to put me in a bed And the doctor would say: ‘There is no bed. You’re going to have to wait a bit for the patient to leave.’ ‘Doctor, Iswear I’m very tired. At least give me oxygen, I want to breathe. I can’t breathe.’ I could not breathe at all.

United Nations officials said that most dwellings in the camp withstood the recent rainfall and attributed tensions in Zaatari to a range of factors, including fear of worsening weather and a surge of as many as 9,000 new residents in the last week. On Twitter, Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency, said the organization was fully focused on improving conditions in the camp.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January ! 11, 2013

A caption with a video in an earlier version of this post misspelled the surname of a Syrian refugee. He is Khaled al-Hariri, not Khaled al-Zubi.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 11, 2013

A caption with a picture in an earlier version of this post incorrectly said on which day a Syrian, Khaled al-Hariri, died in a refugee camp in Jordan. As the post said, it was Tuesday, not Wednesday.