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Syria’s Al Hol camp sees more than 500 deaths in 2019

Syria (AFP) – At least 517 people, mostly children, died in 2019 in an overstretched Syrian camp housing displaced people and relatives of Islamic State fighters, the Kurdish Red Crescent told AFP.

The Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria is home to around 68,000 people who are reliant on humanitarian assistance, especially during harsh winter month.

A Kurdish Red Crescent spokesperson said 371 children are among the 517 people who died in the squalid tent city in 2019.

Malnutrition, poor healthcare for newborns, and hypothermia during harsh winter months are among the main causes of death among children, Dalal Ismail told AFP at the camp on Thursday, January 16.

“The situation is tragic and the burden is huge,” she said, adding that foreigners were among the children who have died.

Syrians and Iraqis form the bulk of the camp’s residents.

Al-Hol is also home to thousands of foreigners, mainly relatives of ISIS fighters who are kept in a guarded section of the camp under the watch of security forces.

Kurdish authorities say they are holding 12,000 foreigners, including 4,000 women and 8,000 children, in three displacement camps in northeastern Syria. The majority are being held in al-Hol.

Jaber Mustafa, an official in the camp, said that assistance delivered by aid groups is “not enough” to address the “great suffering” of residents.

Medicine and food baskets are among the most pressing needs, he told AFP.

The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria this week warned that humanitarian conditions in al-Hol could deteriorate further after the U.N. Security Council on Friday voted to restrict cross-border aid.

The Yaroubiya crossing on the Iraqi border was a key entry point for U.N.-funded medical aid reaching northeastern Syria, including al-Hol.

The U.N. had used it to deliver some medical supplies that the Syrian government had not permitted via Damascus.

Yaroubiya’s closure will disrupt “60 to 70 percent of medical assistance to Al-Hol,” Abdel Kader Mouwahad, director of humanitarian affairs in the autonomous Kurdish administration, told AFP.

This leaves Syria’s Kurds with the unofficial Zamalka crossing with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which is not used for U.N. aid.

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