Reuters has a report on the squalid conditions in a refugee camp in Iraq.
Hussein Abd-al Zahra fled the violence around Baghdad but now feels he is fighting a losing battle against the heat and dust in the Iraqi desert.
"This place is not even fit for animals. Look at my four children. They have not washed for two weeks. Look at their clothes, their bodies, they're filthy," he said.
Imagine, for a moment, what it's like to live in a tent in the desert with a temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit:
More than 1,000 Iraqis outside the southern city of Najaf are enduring their country's searing summer in a tented camp with no electricity or running water, where midday temperatures can easily reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
"We are dying in this camp. We are completely ignored but we have done nothing wrong. Our only fault is that we are Iraqi Shi'ites," said Ali Qasem Jafar, 35, whose daughter, Fatima, is seriously ill from poor food and dirty water.
As always with these situations, it's the kids who suffer the most:
In addition to the immediate health concerns is the lasting damage done by a massive and possibly permanent population displacement, disrupting healthcare and education services for over a million children.
Even the most basic of essentials like water are difficult to come by:
"The most important need is water as we head into the summer season ... We think this could promote some serious issues in the future," said Hicham Hassan, the Iraq spokesman for the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross. One such camp sits on an abandoned amusement park outside Kerbala, whose withered grass and tree stumps are a forlorn reminder of happier times.
"There is no clean water to drink and there is no electricity. Our suffering here is incredible," said Ali Mohammed, a 39-year-old from Diyala province, north of Baghdad, which is now one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. "Sometimes we are able to boil the water, and sometimes we cannot," he added.
It's incumbent upon us as Americans to continue to raise the plight of Iraq's refugees so that our government officials recognize the magnitude of the disaster that is currently unfolding there. The US should be taking the lead in providing support to neighboring countries that have absorbed large populations of refugees from Iraq, in particular Syria and Jordan. In addition, we should be significantly increasing the quota of Iraqi refugees that we accept into this country.
Silence on the part of our government won't make this problem go away. If you're interested in providing some assistance to Iraq's refugees go to the Refugees International web site and make a donation.
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