PRESS RELEASE: 35 Children Dead Since December; Wave of IDPs Escaping Hajin Overwhelms Camps
Geneva, Switzerland -
Escalating fighting in the ISIL held Hajin region of Deir Ez Zor has led to the massive displacement of over 10,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to the Al Hol refugee camp in Hassakeh this week. UNHCR reported over 35 children and infants have died from hypothermia and malnourishment since December on the journey or at the camp. More than 23,000 IDPs, mostly women and children, have fled to the Al Hol camp since December, overwhelming the camp originally designed for a third of the current capacity.
The IDPs are arriving malnourished, wounded, and ill with hypothermia and other sicknesses from a prolonged lack of food and medical attention in Hajin. The number of IDPs and casualties is expected to rise dramatically in the coming weeks. UOSSM asks for all actors in the conflict to ensure safe passage of IDPs from Hajin to Al Hol, and for emergency medical stations to be given access along the route in addition to food, water and warm clothing distribution. Failure to do so will cause incalculable suffering and death.
UOSSM condemns the restriction of movement of IDPs and the practice of identity document confiscation, further complicating a very desperate situation.
“The reports we are receiving about the journey of the IDPs is horrendous. They are mostly women and children, escaping the horrors of ISIL if they are so lucky, facing indiscriminate airstrikes, crossing mine fields and check points in the freezing cold. They need every support possible to survive the journey. At least 35 children have already died unnecessarily while fleeing and we cannot tolerate losing one more. We commend the tremendous and courageous work UNHCR has done to accommodate these refugees in a very short period of time and under the most difficult circumstances.” Said Dr. Hussam Al Fakir, Chairman of UOSSM International.