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When Eqbal brought her son Aiham to EMERGENCY’s Healthcare Centre at the refugee camp in Ashti, in Iraqi Kurdistan, he was only four months old, had a severe cold and a cough, and his eyes wouldn’t stop watering.
In Ashti, the winter temperatures, rain, humidity and lack of proper heating systems in the tents really test the health of the youngest residents.
‘Luckily, Aiham doesn’t have any infections in his airways, just some redness and dermatitis that can be treated with the medicine we gave his mum at our pharmacy,’ Rajan, the doctor from the Healthcare Centre who examined Aiham, explains to me.
‘How many children are living here?’ I ask. ‘There are about 11,500 people living in the camp and more than half of them are children.’
Eqbal and her husband came from Salah al-Din, the Iraqi governorate north of Baghdad, four years ago to escape the conflict. Aiham didn’t come from anywhere though. He was born right here and has never seen anything beyond this sea of tents.
‘We’re scared to go back. We don’t feel safe there any more,’ Eqbal tells me, sorting out her son’s jumper and holding him tight.
This is what’s happening here in Ashti. A place whose name in Kurdish means ‘peace’.
– Marta, EMERGENCY Staff, Iraq