This report summarizes the results of a detailed survey on camp conditions administered in 13 camps in Ahmedabad, hosting approximately 40,000 people (over 65% of the population in camps) between June 1 and 5. The camps were visited by representatives of the Monitoring Unit of Citizens Initiative. The principal respondents to the survey were the camp management. However, the responses recorded were cross-checked with residents of the camp, where possible, and by the surveyors' own observations elsewhere. The intention is to repeat this survey every 7 days to present an accurate picture of the changing conditions across relief camps.
The basic purpose of this exercise is to create a robust "fact base" regarding conditions in refugee camps in Ahmedabad. Although much has been said and written about the conditions in these camps, a precise understanding of the conditions within them, based on objective external assessment according to objective standards, conducted on a regular basis, is as yet lacking. Such an understanding is a requirement for informed advocacy and meaningful relief efforts, the two principal means by which civil society can assist the riot victims.
The survey covered the basic living conditions in the camps- food, water, shelter, sanitation, medical assistance, and availability of the basic legal information necessary to claim their rights. The highlights of the report are summarized below.
* Food is by and large adequate and of satisfactory quality; although the government is not supplying the required rations everywhere the shortfall is being made up
* Drinking water is available in adequate quantities, however overall water supply is far below minimum international refugee standards
* Sanitation is very poor in camps, with grossly inadequate toilet facilities
* The absence of shelter arrangements for the upcoming monsoon season is a very serious problem
The general impression among inhabitants was that the quality of camp rations was good or at least average, matching up to the food they used to eat at home prior to the riots. The frequency of rations varied from camp to camp, on average arriving once in 5 days. Perhaps due to the fact that the real population of a camp at any one moment could not be monitored with accuracy, half of these camps complained that ration quantities were inadequate. However, the shortfall in government supply of rations was filled by the camp managers with the assistance of NGOs, the Muslim community, and political parties.
The water situation in the camps-while not critical-leaves much to be desired. Although the availability of clean drinking water is, in general, not a problem, most camps face a critical shortage of water for use in activities such as bathing or washing of clothes. Overall, water supply to camps is significantly below international standards, with 7.8 litres on average per head, as compared to the international benchmark of 15 litres.
Water shortage prevents camp inmates from using washing facilities that were available in 13 out of 16 camps surveyed. In these camps, separate areas were demarcated for activities such as bathing or washing utensils, but it is doubtful if these activities could be carried out at all, particularly when the averages were as low as 1 litre per head in some cases(see graph). In most camps people only bathe once every 2-3 days. Some manage to access bathing and laundry services outside the camp, bu tthese are typically the relatively well-off victims. The majority have no choice but to continue with a lifestyle that is plainly unhygienic.
The camps have access to basic health care in the form of daily medical team visits to all but 3 camps. Despite this, outbreaks of diseases have occurred in 5 camps: Pir Shah Hammad Roza No. 21, Sanklit Nagar, Juhapura, Prathmik Shala 1, camp no. 8, Shah Alam Roza, Gomtipur, Municipal School 5/6, Opp Bhogilal Chali, and Shahibaug, Dariyakhan Ghummat. This suggests that although regular access to medical teams existed, illnesses were not met with speedy treatment or any sort of effective quarantine. Only 5 out of 16 camps reported transport of invalids to a doctor within a span of 24 hours.
Most camps reported having vaccination arrangements for children. However, rudimentary medical check-ups were absent in more than half the cases, and the most neglected group were women who were pregnant or lactating, these being in urgent need of supplementary nutrition. The general observation about medical provisions was that efforts were being made in the right direction, but oversights in small details such as the provision of soaps - neglected by more than half the camps - undermined other gestures.
A key example of such neglect can be seen in the sanitation facilities, which fall disgracefully below international standards of 20 toilets per head. Of the 16 camps surveyed, none managed to proffer a single-digit ratio of people to toilets available, with 2 camps that reported a near absence of facilities.
Efforts have been made to keep these facilities clean, but given the sheer number of shared users, the average daily cleaning routine has proved ineffectual. These problems are compounded by a lack of drainage systems in 4 of the camps, causing huge quantities of human waste to collect near the campsites. It is unclear if these problems were noted by any of the authorities as only 3 camps could name a designated sanitation officer.
Toilets were typically segregated by sex to prevent unnecessary contact and lighting at night was provided in half the camps. The exact problems that occur are difficult for outsiders to gauge. However, it is clear that the camps would greatly benefit if more thought were given to ensuring the security of their inhabitants, particularly the vulnerable groups of unprotected women - for example widows - and children, in their use of sanitation facilities.
The dissemination of information through GRs has been partially successful - half the camps have attempted to distribute GRs to households in a language they can understand. However, even in these camps the coverage of households is far from comprehensive. Camp managers have also attempted, in places, to post the information on notices boards. In other, worse organized camps, even the camp management does not have a complete record of the GRs.
Almost half the camps did not have any plans to provide shelter during monsoons, while the remainder were yet to operationalize the plans they had. Some talked of using nearby buildings as shelter, yet they had not assessed the viability of such buildings as shelter. A variety of options were cited, ranging from schools, which were the most popular, to theatres, and even a dargarh. Commendably, 3 camps have begun to consider erecting the required structures, although the best means of "monsoon-proofing" - whether in the form of shamianas or iron bars as a support for an erected roof - will be determined only in the coming weeks.