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Iraqi Tent Camp Residents Live Grim Existence

The International Organization for Migration says daily life for thousands of Internally Displaced People living in tent camps in Iraq is particularly grim. A study by the Geneva-based IOM finds people who live in these remote, barren settlements have little or no basic services and are at the mercy of the elements or extreme weather. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports for VOA.

The International Organization for Migration finds an overwhelming majority of Iraq's 2.8 million internally displaced people and returnees continue to endure great deprivation. It says they suffer from inadequate shelter, limited access to drinkable water, food and other basic services such as health care, education and electricity.

While their existence is difficult, IOM says this is nothing compared to the hardships faced by thousands of tent camp residents. It notes the number of people living in tents is very low compared to the overall number of displaced people living in rented housing or with family and friends.

But, IOM Spokesman, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, tells VOA the tent people make up in suffering for what they lack in numbers. He says in most ways, they have been forgotten and receive little assistance. "They are obviously the poorest and the most vulnerable among those displaced. We find out that those who are living in those tented camps have usually been evicted many times from public buildings that they had been occupying illegally. And, because they are a small number, they probably have not received the assistance they deserve, especially considering that these camps are sometimes in fairly remote locations and usually are set up in barren empty land," he says.

Chauzy says people in these tent camps very rarely have access to drinkable water, sanitation and health care because it is so difficult to reach them. He says these people cannot protect themselves against the extreme heat in the summer or extreme cold in the winter.

He says they are located far away from medical care, education, and other needs. He says the harsh conditions, lack of family privacy and personal dignity, make tent camps a last resort for Iraqi internally displaced.

There currently are five tent camps in Iraq. IOM cites the example of Sulaymaniyah's Qalawa camp to point out some of the difficulties faced by residents.

It says IDPs who settled there two years ago on an empty piece of open land still have no sanitation, no electricity and no toilets. It says they live surrounded by garbage. As a result, it says cases of typhoid recently have been reported.

IOM says every day is a humanitarian crisis for the small group of tent people. The agency is appealing to the Iraqi government and the international community to help them.