The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that at least 15 children have died in Syria because of a lack of medical care and inadequate living conditions amid freezing temperatures, warning that more deaths are likely to follow.
Eight babies in the Rukban IDP camp on the Jordanian border had died from hypothermia in the last month, a statement from the UN children’s fund said on Tuesday. A further seven children, mostly under one year old, had died from the cold in recent weeks as their families fled the battle for the town of Hajin, one of the last areas held by ISIS in eastern Syria.
Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, warned that more children may day from lack of healthcare in Rukban, Deir Ezzor and elsewhere in Syria.
The freezing temperatures and harsh living conditions in the Rukban IDP camp were putting children’s lives at increased risk, Cappelaere said. Three weeks ago, three-year-old Sumaya Al-Salem died in the Rukban camp because of severe cold and her family’s inability to afford heating equipment.
Echoing the warning from UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that children only months old are succumbing to the harsh winter conditions in the Rukban camp at the southwestern border of Syria with Jordan.
Six children under the age of 12 months reportedly died after their arrival at the Houl IDP camp in al-Hassakah province from the lack of healthcare and exhaustion they suffered during their journey from Deir Ezzor.
The Syrian Coalition earlier called upon the international community and humanitarian organizations to relieve the Syrian refugees and IDPs, stressing the need to provide them with the necessary support during the cold snap hitting the region.
Poor sanitary conditions and lack of access to proper healthcare led to the spread of several diseases in the Rukban camp, especially with the onset of winter. Many IDPs, including children, have died in the camp over the past two months. In mid-December, the Emergency Response Coordinators aid group said they had documented the deaths of 14 people inside the camp because of the dire humanitarian conditions.
The Rukban camp has been under tightened blockade by the Assad regime and its allies since June. It is home to tens of thousands of displaced persons, thousands of whom suffer from disabilities, including 1,460 women, 1,621 men and 4,273 children. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)