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11 Apr, 2019 06:26

235 children perish in ‘unbearable’ Syrian refugee camp controlled by US allies – Russian MoD

235 children perish in ‘unbearable’ Syrian refugee camp controlled by US allies – Russian MoD

Up to 20 people die daily in a tent camp set up by US-backed forces in northern Syria due to an acute shortage of medicine and food, as well as an inability to escape the squalid conditions, the Russian military said.

The death toll has been skyrocketing in the makeshift Al-Hol camp since December, when it saw a massive influx of new arrivals fleeing the former Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) stronghold of Al-Baghuz Fawqani as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) mounted a large-scale offensive on the area.

The camp, which was initially supposed to house no more than 20,000 residents, has now become home to over 74,000 people, with its capacity long overstretched.

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The head of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchishin, reported on Wednesday that the situation in the camp is teetering on the brink of a catastrophic humanitarian disaster. Citing a woman, who was lucky enough to escape the camp, he said that “between 10 and 20 people die each day, including children.”

“In the past week, due to the lack of medicines, food and unbearable living conditions, seven children died in the camp,” Kupchishin said. The death toll among children alone has climbed to 235, he claimed. The official called on international organizations to step in to improve conditions at the overcrowded camp, which has grown to be one of the biggest east of the Euphrates.

Kupchishin pointed out that Damascus has been offering resettlement schemes along with security guarantees to those internally displaced by the years of bloodshed. The Syrian government has set up temporary shelters for evacuees and offered to streamline the process of issuing new identification papers. However, so far Damascus has seen little to no cooperation from the US-led coalition forces that control the infamous Rukban camp near the Al-Tanf base, as well as the territory where there Al-Hol camp is located.

Buses that were to ferry the refugees from Rukban were forced to turn away after being denied access by the US last month, and attempts by the Russian military to discuss the situation concerning refugees trapped in Rukban has so far yielded no results.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also sounded the alarm over the rapidly deteriorating situation at the Al-Hol camp. Upon visiting the camp last month, ICRC President Peter Maurer said he was “shocked” by the stories “of children and women dying in big numbers because of all the difficulties.”

The now-world-famous British ISIS bride Shamima Begum was a resident of Al-Hol until recently. There, she gave birth to her son in mid-February. The infant, however, fell ill shortly after being born and died in a Syrian hospital after Begum was transferred from the camp.

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