Every morning at 6.30am Mohamed Meah’s children queue for up to half an hour at a nearby tube well. After filling their containers, they trudge for 15 minutes back up the hill to their home. They make the same journey at noon, and sometimes in the evening, heaving water back to their bamboo and tarpaulin shelter.

There used to be a water point just minutes away, says Meah, but it has been broken for almost a year. Nowadays, the family of 13 relies on the tube well that has to serve a far greater number of families. His children, who don’t have masks, wait alongside others for their turn. There’s little social distancing.

Even before the outbreak, access to water was one of the biggest problems facing his family, says Meah. Now, the need for clean water, so that families can wash their hands and reduce the risk of virus transmission, is even more urgent.

He adds that thankfully there are no known coronavirus cases in camp 17, but everyone is on high alert and lockdown means the already dire conditions have become even harder.

“I have 13 family members, so it is very tough,” he says. They rely on rations, and barely have enough to eat. Many people in the camps have lost work due to the lockdown, and services provided by NGOs have been cut to reduce the risk of aid workers bringing the virus in with them. Meah is still able to work in a madrasa school, but no one else in the family is earning. They can’t afford to buy extra vegetables or snacks for the children.

“Whenever we see people, we have a talk about Covid-19 and about the situation in the camp. We try to get more information from each other,” he says. An internet ban means there is no way to access reliable news, and instead people rely on word of mouth.

There are many children living in the camps

Meah says that if he developed symptoms he would go to the clinic, about half-an-hour’s walk away, and follow whatever treatment is given. He isn’t sure what to expect, though. Many people are reluctant to go, he adds. Some have had bad experiences in the past, or worry about being sent into isolation.

Social distancing at home, he says, wouldn’t be possible. “We all sleep together. There’s no space.”

Camp 17 profile

Of the 376 working tube wells in this camp, 131 of them are near a latrine

Average population density

3 times as

densely

populated as

the UK’s most

crowded city

Of the 376 working tube wells in this camp, 131 of them are near a latrine

Average population density

3 times as densely populated as the UK’s most crowded city

Source: UNHCR 2020, REACH 2019, GLA 2018. See end for full source notes.



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