In the aftermath of the February 6 earthquake, many survivors whose homes were either partially or fully destroyed sought shelter in dozens of shelter centres set up hastily in Lattakia city. The number of these shelters has decreased in recent days to just 15, with many people returning to their homes after ascertaining their structural safety, according to The Syria Report’s local correspondent.
After a building just across from their house collapsed, Munira and her husband, both in their late 60s, moved into a shelter centre set up in a Lattakia city school. According to Munira, all 24 residents of the shelter centre went without any aid for days following the earthquake. She began to develop severe kidney pain due to the extreme cold and from sitting on wooden seats meant for students and had to be transported to a hospital.
Munira told The Syria Report that most children in the shelter centre developed colds. It wasn’t until the fifth day after the earthquake that volunteer teams from NGOs arrived and handed out meals, mattresses, blankets, medicine and baby formula.
From the shelter centre, Munira and her husband returned to their home, which structural safety teams hadn’t yet inspected. Though the couple feared aftershocks and the house potentially had some invisible cracks, it was more comfortable for them than the shelter centre.
The shelters set up in Lattakia city’s school buildings are the worst in terms of services provided to residents. Even before the earthquake, the schools were unclean and faced continuous power cuts, poorly maintained bathrooms and hot water shortages. Initially, shelters were set up in 25 school buildings, where people took refuge after the quake. People stayed in classrooms without blankets, electricity, heating devices, hot water, or working bathrooms.
In some cases, women faced harassment in the shelters, mainly due to a lack of management supervision. Naila, a woman in her 20s, lives alone. Part of the building collapsed due to the earthquake, so she went with her neighbours to a shelter centre in a nearby school. While there, a young man tried to exploit Naila’s need for housing, repeatedly offering to move her into an apartment where she could live on her own. When she refused, the man made an offer of customary marriage. To escape the situation, Naila went to stay with relatives outside of Lattakia city.
The Municipal Stadium and the Sports City
Said and his family were displaced to Lattakia’s Municipal Stadium when their house partially collapsed in the quake. Because Said is active in a civil society NGO, his family was able to use his connections to obtain an electric heater. He could also find some privacy for his sisters in a separate room.
Aid organisations assisted in the stadium shelter centre immediately after the earthquake, including three meals daily for residents and medicine for those in need. According to The Syria Report’s local correspondent, the stadium is among the best shelter centres in Lattakia. About 4,000 sought shelter there right after the quake, though only 300 remained at the time of writing. Electricity is available in the stadium, with only two-hour daily cutoffs.
The same goes for the existing shelter centre in Lattakia Sports City, which received many displaced people from Aleppo and the rural parts of the Lattakia governorate throughout the war. The two centres were ideal for communicating with NGOs and government organisations to provide aid.
Rama, her husband, and her infant son were displaced to a neighbourhood mosque after cracks appeared in their home due to the earthquake. The family of three suffered from a lack of privacy in the shelter centre. Everyone who had fled there lived together in the central part of the mosque with no dividers, which made changing clothes and bathing very difficult, especially for women.
Food supplies arrived at the mosque in the very first days after the quake but were distributed in an unorganised manner. It wasn’t until six days after the earthquake that aid organisations began paying attention to women’s needs. Nevertheless, residents say that the mosque shelter centres are among the best because they are cleaned regularly and have steady electricity and hot water supplies. The biggest issue in these shelters is the lack of privacy, especially for women.