Number of Foreign Children in North-East Syria Camps up Almost 45 Percent in Less than a Month

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (March 14, 2019)—There are now estimated to be at least 3,580 children of foreign nationalities living in three camps for displaced people in North-East Syria, Save the Children revealed today.

This is an increase of almost 45 percent from a previous mid-February estimate of 2,500, as the offensive against the last ISIS-held enclave intensified in recent weeks.

At least 56,000 people—both Syrians and families from other nationalities, mostly Iraqis—have been displaced in the last three months, overwhelming to the al-Hol camp where people are being transferred.

Malnutrition and infectious diseases are particular concerns for young children. At least 75 children under the age of five are now reported to have died on their way to the camp or upon arrival, most from hypothermia, pneumonia, and hunger-related illnesses.

“Children, particularly young children, are coming out of the last ISIS-held areas in absolutely desperate conditions. Many are starved, sick and emotionally distressed from what they have been through. In the overcrowded displacement camps, their lives are still at risk from infectious diseases, cold and hunger,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Response Director.

“The international community must step up its response to ensure we can meet families’ basic needs. In the case of foreign nationals, governments must urgently take responsibility for their citizens and put in place plans to repatriate them. There is no excuse for leaving children to die in a foreign displacement camp.”

Almost 30 percent of children under the age of five screened by Save the Children for malnutrition at al-Hol camp since the start of February were acutely malnourished.

A quarter of those were suffering from severe acute malnutrition – meaning they could lose their lives if not urgently treated. Additionally, 13 percent of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers screened by Save the Children were found to be acutely malnourished. There is currently a shortage of ambulances and beds at hospitals to transfer urgent cases.

Of the 3,580 foreign children from more than 30 nationalities now estimated to be living in camps in North-East Syria, 3,303 are below the age of 12 and 2,045 are under five. The total number of children includes 77 who are unaccompanied.

Save the Children is urging countries of origin not to strip children and their mothers of their nationalities, and to take steps to repatriate their citizens. All displaced children in North-East Syria need urgent help, but those from foreign families—more than half of whom are under five—face particular vulnerabilities and difficulties accessing services.

Save the Children is working in the three camps providing nutrition, education and child protection, including psychosocial support and care for unaccompanied and separated children. The agency is also providing relief items including heaters, winter kits and ready-to-eat food for families newly arrived in al-Hol camp

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