United Nations High Commission for Refugees - IDIA
PhilMUN 2010 11 access to development resources and the local job markets. 33 The project proved to be unique because it included the active involvement and participation of the community and should be used as model to improve other refugee camps. Possible Causes Lack of Proper Housing and Infrastructure Refugee camps are often characterized by having poor housing structures. Housing can be defined as a house, shelter, or dwelling and a household is composed of one or more families or individuals. The quality of housing is an important determinant of health in refugee camps. For example, a lack of windows and natural sunlight will prevent exposure to sunrays that provide the necessary ultraviolet rays for the body to utilize vitamin D. 34 Inadequate heat insulation, ventilation and excess moisture encourage microorganisms, such as molds, to grow; These molds can be allergenic and attract house mites. 35 Other factors that directly affect health that are related to housing are the site of residential area, access to water, sanitation, building materials, and overcrowding. Serious respiratory health risks can occur from factors such as tobacco use, biological organisms, building material, cleaning agents, as well as airborne lead and mercury vapors. 36 Overcrowding leads to the spread of communicable diseases and jeopardizes privacy, which can cause mental health problems. For example, in Al-Ein Refugee Camp, which is located the West Bank of the occupied Palestinian territories, family size ranges from 2 to 37 members with the average being 8.06. 40 percent of families live in three rooms or less. Fifty percent of houses only had one window, and two percent had no windows at all. While most of the homes are connected to a sewage system, it still 33 “Neirab Reabilitation Project” United Nations in Syria. http://www.un.org.sy/forms/projects/viewProject.php?id=115 (Accessed 11/22/2009) 34 Al-Khatib, Issam A., Arafat, Rania N. and Musmar, Mohamed(2005)’Housing environment and women’s health in a Palestinian refugee camp’,International Journal of Environmental Health Research,15:3,181 — 191. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09603120500105950 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid.
PhilMUN 2010 12 required upgrading. The housing is generally crowded. 60.4 percent of housing was characterized by having high density while 7.9 percent was considered overcrowded, and 31.7 percent was considered to be low in density. 37 In Syria, only one in five are crowded compared to some one in four in Lebanon and one in three in Jordan. 38 Refugee camps are prone to overcrowding because only small areas are allotted for refugee settlement; lands allocated for refugee camps in 1949 have not been increased during the past 50 years and in some cases, land was even reduced. Consequently, housing is expanded vertically failing to meet most standards for healthy living. 39 Water plays an essential role in sanitation and public health and it is important for drinking water to be adequately treated and monitored. According to the World Health Organization, water that is to be consumed by humans must be free of biological and chemical agents and should be of good quality, colorless, tasteless, and odorless. Numerous diseases are transmitted through water or due to lack of water, such as cholera, typhoid, malaria, dysentery, and hepatitis. Water supplies are often contaminated due to improper handling and poorly planned networks. 40 Piped water is often available to refugee camps; however, there is often irregularity in its delivery. For example, in refugee camps in Lebanon, 64 percent of households have piped water while only 50 percent have piped drinking water. Refugees generally have lower access to safe drinking water and many resort to open containers, boreholes, reservoirs, and rain wells, which are potentially unsafe due to the lack of filtration devices and are not always chlorinated. Water service has a tendency to get interrupted and sometimes water is available only during certain hours of the day. 41 37 Ibid. 38 Jacobson, Laurie Blome. “The Material and Social Infrastructure, and Environmental Conditions of Refugee Camps and Palestinian Communities in Syria”. Fafo. http://www.fafo.no/ais/middeast/palestinianrefugees/syriapaper04.pdf 39 Zeidan, Ali. Environmental Conditions In Palestinian Camps in Lebanon - Case Study”. FOFOGNET Digest, 5 September 1999. http://prrn.mcgill.ca/research/papers/zeidan.htm 40 Ibid. 41 “Living conditions Among Palestinian Refugees in Camps and Gatherings in Lebanon”. Fafo. 2003. http://www.fafo.no/pub/rapp/409/409.pdf