'Utterly inhumane': Canadian nurse describes conditions in Syrian refugee camp
Published Monday, November 30, 2015 2:56PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 1, 2015 12:55PM EST
Canadian nurse Nada Sidani says the living conditions she witnessed inside a Syrian refugee camp made her "ashamed of humanity."
After the war in Syria broke out in 2011, Lebanese-born Sidani said she felt compelled to help. Between 2012 and 2014 she travelled to Yemen, Lebanon and Syria where she worked with refugees.
While in Syria, Sidani recalls a mother bringing in her seven-day old baby to be vaccinated. When Sidani removed the rags that covered the infant, she said she was shocked to see the baby's body was covered in plastic.
"Not because the (mother) is ignorant, but because the water seeps from the top and bottom of the tent, and that's the only way to keep the baby dry," Sidani told CTV News Channel on Monday.
"There are many instances which made me ashamed of humanity and the atrocities of war," she continued.
She said the vast majority of the people she encountered led very normal lives before the brutal civil war broke out in 2011.
"They are people like you and me, who before the war had a life, had a livelihood, who contributed to the country's economy," she said. "They got stuck in a very brutal war."
In the country of 23 million, more than four million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries while another 6.5 million are displaced inside the country, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Sidani said many of the Syrians she encountered were holding out hope of one day returning to their homes.
"They still have hope that one day they can go back and rebuild whatever has been (destroyed) and restart the life they have always known," she said.
In the meantime, many of the displaced Syrians are living in dire conditions in the camps.
"People are living in temperatures between 4C and 5C," she said. "These are the temperatures we use to preserve meat and cheese in our fridges. It's utterly inhumane."
She continued: "People ask me about the camps. How can I talk about the smell of urine and feces because of the poor sanitary conditions?"
Since returning to Canada, Sidani has campaigned to bring more Syrian refugees into Canada.
She said she now plans to turn her focus on sponsoring refugee children who are living on the streets in Turkey.
"To witness the atrocities of war, and not to do something about it, makes me feel I'm an accomplice," Sidani said. "It's the least I can do."