At least 29 children and newborns have died over the past two months in or on their way to the Al-Hol IDP camp in Al-Hasakah province, the World Health Organization said, as the camp struggles to deal with cold winter conditions and an influx of displaced people.
Most of the children died of hypothermia, according to a report from WHO, released Thursday.
About 23,000 people have arrived at the camp in Al-Hasakeh province in just eight weeks, WHO said. Most of the new residents are Syrian women and children fleeing fighting between the PYD militia and the remnants of the ISIS extremist group.
Elizabeth Hoff, WHO's representative in Syria, described the situation inside the camp as “critical.” She added: “Children are dying from hypothermia as their families flee to safety.”
Many of the new arrivals are suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion after years of living under ISIS rule. Bureaucratic obstacles and security constraints have hampered humanitarian access to the camp, according to WHO.
Echoing the same concerns, the UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that the “difficult journey, cold weather and long waiting periods at screening centers, where families wait sometimes for days, have reportedly contributed to the death of at least 29 children – including 11 infants in the past two days alone.”
“Persistent fighting in the area surrounding Hajin, in eastern Syria, has forced thousands of people to embark on a long and arduous journey to safety at Al-Hol camp for internally displaced people - almost 300km to the north,” Fore added.
“UNICEF appeals to all parties to facilitate safe, unhindered and sustained humanitarian access to all children in need.
WHO called for unhindered access to al-Hol camp, saying the situation was “extremely dire” for the 33,000 people living in cold weather without tents, blankets or heating equipment and who needed urgent life-saving assistance.
The Syrian Coalition earlier called on the United Nations to provide urgently needed humanitarian aid and to alleviate the suffering of people living in the camp. It stressed the need to provide urgent life-saving support and enable the IDP to cope with the severe weather conditions.
Located near the Syrian-Iraqi border, Al-Hol camp is home to thousands of Iraqi refugees and Syrian IDPs. It still receives people fleeing the fighting between the PYD militia and ISIS in rural Deir Ezzor. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)