Nova Scotia

Syrian refugee family combats bedbugs in Halifax apartment

A Syrian refugee family is happy to be settling in their new Halifax home but now have another fight on their hands: bedbugs.

Couple's 10-month-old baby covered in bites, mother says

Wafaa Al Safadi holds her 10-month-old son Rayan Zeina who's covered in bedbug bites, she says. (CBC)

A Syrian refugee family living in a central Halifax apartment say they're suffering from something that plagues a lot of buildings: bedbugs.

Ten-month-old Rayan Zeina grimaces as his mother, Wafaa Al Safadi, lifts his shirt to show his chest and back covered in itchy bites and large scabs.

"He's not sleeping. It's all bitten by the bedbugs, unfortunately. See all those bites," she says through an interpreter, Basim Sobeih. 

The Zeinas, a family of six, moved into the 10th floor of Harbour View Apartments on Gerrish Street less than two weeks ago and the problem is getting worse.

Al Safadi said the bites began appearing the next day. The whole family has been bitten by bedbugs, but the youngest children have it the worst.

Seeking new home

Her husband, also speaking through the interpreter, said the family can't take it any longer.

"We have to change buildings because this is non-stop and it's not going to change and there's no solution at this moment," Ziad Zeina said.

Ziad Zeina, top left, says he wants to move his family out of their Gerrish Street apartment because of a bedbug infestation. (CBC)

The government-sponsored family has started fumigating the apartment themselves with bug spray and say building management hasn't been helpful.

The interpreter said building managers have told the family they are the problem.

"They're basically blaming them, saying that you're getting used stuff from [the refugee donation centre] and from other stuff," said Sobeih, adding the family has told managers that's not the case and what they have is brand new

Sobeih is with the Muslim refugee assistance group, United For One, which is working with Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia to help settle government-sponsored Syrian refugees in the province.

Grateful to be in Canada

So far, 19 families have moved into the Gerrish Street building, and another four are living in two other buildings in the complex, he said.

"We have to make everyone is aware this is an issue. And bedbugs are easily transferrable. They jump onto clothes, we go outside, they go onto buses … We have to really make sure that this is taken care of immediately," said Sobeih.

Despite the circumstances, the family said they're grateful to be in Canada. 

Al Safadi said their home in Daraa, Syria, was levelled by a missile in 2012.

"She's saying that obviously she's happy here, she feels like she's a little bit settled now, which is a good thing. The only thing that she can't stand is seeing her children in pain," said Sobeih.

CBC News is awaiting a response from the building owner and ISANS.

About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at


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