Established by Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud 2005 - Homs

Child deaths double inside six months at Syria's al-Hawl camp

Syrian Refugees | 2019-09-20 23:00:00
Child deaths double inside six months at Syria's al-Hawl camp
The number of children under five dying in the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria has more than doubled since March, according to data from the International Rescue Committee.

Figures show that child mortality at the camp, which houses women and children displaced following the fall of Islamic State, rose from 142 deaths as of mid-March to 313 by the start of September.

Child mortality accounts for the overwhelming majority of all deaths at the camp, which is controlled by the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces. Of the total 406 recorded deaths between 1 December 2018 and 1 September 2019, 339 – more than 80% – were among children.
The main causes of death were severe malnutrition, diarrhoea and pneumonia.

The camp, near the border with Iraq, is known among its female residents as Jabal Baghuz, or Baghuz Mountain, named after the oasis town on the Euphrates river where their husbands were finally defeated in March.

The majority of the 70,000 people living in the al-Hawl camp are women and children. The IRC said that roughly 34% of all child deaths recorded up until mid-July occurred in tents, meaning that the victims had not been transferred to a health facility.

“The main causes [of death] being recorded are severe malnutrition with complications, diarrhoea with dehydration and pneumonia – a proxy indicator of poor health conditions upon arrival and poor access to humanitarian assistance,” the IRC said.

The situation is particularly dire for 7,000 children of foreign nationals who are sheltered in the camp’s annex, where the highest number of under-five deaths have been recorded.

The IRC said health services have recently improved in the camp except in the annex, where residents have access to few services and face restrictions to their movement. Pregnant women, for example, are “compelled to give birth alone in their tents”, the agency said.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) situation report, the foreigner’s annex is “still suffering from the lack for full provision of health services”.

Misty Buswell, IRC’s Middle East policy, advocacy and communications director, urged repatriation of foreign children and said more support was needed for resources to treat children in the camp for trauma and distress.
“The fates of the 70,000 people in al-Hawl who lived an appalling existence under Isis are uncertain. Foreigners face even more uncertainty, as few countries are willing to repatriate their citizens – threatening to create a generation of stateless children with no prospects or hope for a future,” she said.

“All those in [al-Hawl] camp are entitled to humanitarian assistance without discrimination and life-saving services need to be urgently scaled up, particularly for foreign nationals in the camp.”

Buswell added: “The tragic increase in child deaths underscores the need for countries of origin to repatriate these children and ensure that they don’t become stateless, and for the international community to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these innocent victims of the conflict. This will include the provision of education and psychosocial support conducive to rehabilitation and recovery necessary for peaceful and productive futures.”

The Guardian
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