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Syria family sets up camp in Roman ruins in northwest

Displaced Syrians at the UNESCO-listed site of Baqirha on 1 November 2020 [ABDULAZIZ KETAZ/AFP/Getty Images]
Displaced Syrians at the UNESCO-listed site of Baqirha on 1 November 2020 [ABDULAZIZ KETAZ/AFP/Getty Images]

A Syrian family has set up home in an ancient Roman temple in northwest Syria to avoid the overcrowded refugee camps.

Abdelaziz Al-Hassan, his wife and three children, fled Idlib after the regime and its allies intensified attacks in 2019. Between December 2019 and March 2020, one million people had been displaced by the violence.

Their home is now a tent between the walls of the UNESO listed Barquirha site and another in front with a line for their washing. They have two solar panels and a wood-burning stove.

Several displaced Syrians have settled among the broken columns and plinths of Roman and Byzantine ruins. Many of the archeological sites have been damaged and plundered throughout the war.

"I chose this place because it provides peace of mind, far from overcrowded places and those riddled with disease," Al-Hassan told AFP.

READ: US slaps new sanctions on Syria to put pressure on Assad regime

He added that the site was safe from the coronavirus, an issue that has been pressing particularly among the refugee camps in northwest Syria.

In northwest Syria, one of the most at risk parts of the world, there are only 600 doctors for the four million inhabitants that live there, leaving just 1.4 doctors per 10,000 people.

The virus hit the region in August. Initially, the death and infection rate was low because as the last remaining opposition area it was closed and isolated from the outside world.

However, experts warned of what was to come, due to the population density in the camps, lack of hygiene, overcrowding and lack of international healthcare organisations working there.

A virus outbreak in 10 to 20 of the camps would overwhelm the healthcare system in a matter of weeks.

Whilst Al-Hassan feels in some way protected from the virus, he has other dangers to deal with: "Two days ago, near the tent's opening, I killed a viper. Every other day, we have to kill a scorpion. But we haven't found anywhere better than here yet."

"Where else can we go?"

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