BEIRUT At least eight children under the age of five have died in recent days from health problems linked to the dire conditions in a camp in northern Syria housing tens of thousands of female supporters of the Islamic State group and their children, the U.N. said Thursday.
The U.N. children’s agency says the eight died between Aug. 6-10 from malnutrition or dehydration from diarrhea. The camp has yet to report any outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has sickened people in other parts of war-torn Syria.
Any childs death is tragic. It is even more so when the death could have been averted,” UNICEF said in a statement.
It said nearly 40,000 children from 60 countries languish at the al-Hol camp. It is operated by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces that played a key role in dismantling the extremist group’s self-styled caliphate, which once sprawled across large areas of Syria and Iraq.
The extremists no longer control any territory, but continue to carry out sporadic attacks in both countries.
The detainees at al-Hol mainly consist of the wives of IS fighters and their children, who were captured or surrendered to Kurdish forces. With few exceptions, Western countries have refused to repatriate them, citing security concerns.
The detainees lack access to basic services and have to contend with the sweltering summer heat and the trauma of violence and displacement, UNICEF said.
Restrictions and quarantine measures imposed to prevent a coronavirus outbreak have hindered aid operations. Infections among camp workers have led to a pause in some health and education services, UNICEF said.
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