At Least 29 Children Died When Winter Hit Syrian Refugee Camps
Most have died from hypothermia.
Over the past two months, at least 29 children have died in refugee camps or while fleeing to camps in Syria, according to a report from the World Health Organzation.
Most of the children, including infants and newborns, died from hypothermia.
“[People fleeing] have been exposed to hostilities, explosive hazards, intense cold, and prolonged security screenings, through which they have received minimal assistance,” said Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs.
Unfortunately, if as they brave these challenges and make it to the camps, the conditions that await them are dire.
A recent influx of refugees has caused the Al-Hol camp to triple in size in just eight weeks, jumping from 10,000 to nearly 33,000 residents since December. And officials are struggling to accommodate the rapid increase, as resources were already limited.
Before the population skyrocketed, almost two-thirds of the residents living in UNHCR tents said they were living in poor conditions and without electricity.
Now with such a large and sudden increase in the camp's population, it’s even harder to provide adequate resources to residents. Despite the winter temperatures, the Al-Hol camp doesn’t have heat and only has a limited amount of tents, toilets, and health care services.
Security constraints have made it hard to bring additional resources in and have delayed refugees' entrance to the camp. Many people arriving at the camp have spent days in unheated reception areas.
"Children are dying from hypothermia as their families flee to safety," Elizabeth Hoff, WHO’s representative in Syria, said in the report. "We are scaling up our efforts in Al Hol, but we need faster approvals to allow us [to] deliver supplies, and we need guaranteed access to both the camp and the roads leading to it."
Read More: 15 Displaced Syrian Children Died Due to a Lack of Medical Care in the Past Month
Most of the refugees traveling to the camp are women and children from Deir Ez-Zor. Kids often arrive after being separated from their families.
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2012, Over 5.6 million people have fled the country and 6.6. million have been internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.
Refugees have traveled to Al-Hol on foot or in open trucks despite the extremely cold temperatures.
"We came with just the clothes on our backs," one displaced Syrian, who made a week-long journey to the camp on foot, told NPR. "We slept in the desert in the rain."
Officials are struggling to have tents and food prepared for future refugees and hundreds more are still expected to come to the camp.