Domiz and the Plight of Child Refugees

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With the possibility of a US military strike looming, the conflict in Syria has received more media coverage than ever, and one of the most talked about issues are the two million plus Syrian refugees who have fled the country. Refugees have traveled to any neighboring country where they are able to find shelter, and tens of thousands have gone to Iraq. Throughout the past week, our Director Erik Gustafson was able to visit the Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, established in April 2012 to host Syrian refugees. In terms of international aid, Domiz has been fortunate, with a strong presence of agencies such as UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, among others. It is a well-organized camp, but like all refugee camps, it still faces major issues, such as problems with water distribution, a poor sanitation system, and a lack of education, reproductive healthcare, livelihood, and recreational space.

Children at Domiz Refugee Camp

In particular, one of the things which Erik couldn’t help but notice was the number of children he saw around the camp. In fact, this is one of the largest challenges Domiz faces. Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 Syrian refugees living in Domiz, which was originally built to accommodate around 20,000 people. Of the estimated 115,000 refugees who live in the Dohuk governorate, where the Domiz camp is located, over 40,000 of them are under the age of 18. This already staggering number will continue to grow, as on average 2 to 3 women living in Domiz give birth each day. With such a large youth presence in the camp, Domiz does not have the resources it needs to provide its children with everything they need. For example, a lack of adequate education is a major problem that the camp faces. While Domiz currently has three elementary schools, it needs at least seven to eight. As of yet, no secondary school has been built, essentially halting education at a young age.

Another major problem of Domiz which young residents are particularly vulnerable to is poor health caused by problems with water distribution and the sanitation system. These poor conditions can lead to gastrointestinal problems, as well as other diseases. Conditions like these make it difficult for refugees to recover from their recent displacement and trauma, and many of those who leave the camp ultimately end up returning, usually because they were unable to find sufficient work. For children, this makes it even more unlikely that they will have the resources they need to prepare for a future outside of refugee camps and poverty.dy staggering number will continue to grow, as on average 2 to 3 women living in Domiz give birth each day. With such a large youth presence in the camp, Domiz does not have the resources it needs to provide its children with everything they need. For example, a lack of adequate education is a major problem that the camp faces. While Domiz currently has three elementary schools, it needs at least seven to eight. As of yet, no secondary school has been built, essentially halting education at a young age.

While at Domiz, Erik noticed that the presence of international organizations, such as UNHCR, was strong. However, despite their hard work to provide better conditions for these refugees, they simply do not have adequate resources to continue to support internally displaced Iraqis as well as the influx of Syrian refugees. For these refugees, including the tens of thousands of children, this means little hope for a better future without increased international aid. At EPIC we believe that the United States must prioritize Iraq, including providing aid to recently arrived refugees.  If you have not yet signed our petition urging the Obama administration to put Iraq back on the agenda, please do so today.