Aid stepped up to Syria camp; new arrivals say terrorists blocked their escape

© UNICEF/UN0277723/Souleiman On 26 January 2019, in the Syrian Arab Republic, children and families are huddled together, after being forced to flee their homes, before embarking on the long and arduous journey to safety at Al-Hol camp.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Harrowing details continue to emerge of thousands of families who have risked their lives fleeing fighting in Syria’s last ISIL terrorist-held enclave, as UN humanitarians warned on Friday that children are still dying on their way to an overcrowded camp for the displaced, amid access problems and perishing cold.

In just the past week, more than 10,000 people have fled conflict in Hajin in eastern Deir-ez-Zor governorate, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told journalists in Geneva.

“Since fighting escalated in Hajin in early December, more than 23,000 people have fled to Al Hol (camp), effectively tripling its population,” he said. “Many more are expected.” They travel at night with barely any belongings, often having to wade through the minefields and open fighting – Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR

Those fleeing Hajin described fierce fighting and said they were blocked from leaving by ISIL, or Da’esh extremists, who used to control large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria.

“Families fleeing the Hajin enclave and surrounding areas have also told us of a harrowing journey to safety,” Mr Mahecic explained. “They travel at night with barely any belongings, often having to wade through the minefields and open fighting.”

On reaching positions controlled by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the “hungry and cold” civilians – mainly women and children, according to UNHCR – “describe being herded into open trucks” and transported northwards to Al Hol camp.

Little or no assistance is given to them, Mr Mahecic noted, adding that since early December, “we have recorded 29 deaths among children and newborns”.

More than two weeks ago, humanitarians asked the SDF to designate a site en route for Al Hol, where emergency assistance can be provided. This has yet to happen, the agency confirmed.

“We have approached the authorities who are effectively in control of the area where we need to work”, Mr Mahecic said. “We have also appealed to those fighting and those with influence over those involved in the fighting to do their utmost to grant safety for the civilians fleeing and to allow humanitarian access in the areas where we need.”

Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) described the life-threatening delays imposed on vulnerable families: “Fleeing civilians are stopped at Al Omar oilfields for days for screening and we need access to this area to assist the people there,” he said. “Many sleep in the open in freezing cold weather and walk or travel in open trucks from there.”

Amid a surge in arrivals to Al Hol camp and overcrowding, UNHCR and its partners have set up 24-hour response teams to identify the most vulnerable arrivals and provide assistance, especially to unaccompanied or separated children.

A number of other emergency measures have been put in place, with additional large tents to provide immediate shelter for new arrivals. The camp already has more than 4,500 tents, with another 3,600 ready to be erected.

Child-friendly spaces are also open, along with schools and communal kitchens to shelter new arrivals temporarily, UNHCR said.

The majority of those fleeing the fighting are Syrian residents of villages in south Deir-ez-Zor province, who have been caught up in the fighting as ISIS retreated south. Mr. Mahecic noted that they are anxious about their confinement to Al Hol camp and the confiscation of their documents.

“Most hope to be allowed to join their relatives and friends in Deir-ez-Zor province and return to their homes as soon as the fighting is over,” he said.

‘Much more help is required’ WHO

WHO, which is ramping up its response to Al Hol camp, has already delivered thousands of medical treatments to support two mobile clinics and four health teams there.

The UN health agency has also supported vaccination campaigns, set up disease surveillance and training for volunteers to provide “psychological first aid and basic counselling”, WHO’s regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean tweeted.

“A week ago, WHO airlifted more than 28 tonnes of medical supplies, equipment and vaccines to Al Hassakeh Governorate to respond to growing health needs in north-east Syria,” WHO’s Mr Lindmeier confirmed.

“This was the second shipment the organization has airlifted to Al Hassakeh this month,” he added. “It’s also worth mentioning that the first shipment this year was airlifted to the governorate on 8 January. It contained 20 tonnes of medical supplies sufficient to cover 110,000 medical treatments.”

Despite the airlifts, much more help is required. “Access does remain the key issue, just to remind everyone, and we need guaranteed approvals to access the camp and the roads leading to it,” Mr Lindmeier explained.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Von der Leyen announces the start of HERA Incubator to anticipate the threat of coronavirus variants

This 12-year-old built an underwater robot to fight plastic pollution

A 10-step plan to save our seas

5 facts you might not know about why forest biodiversity matters

EU budget 2021: An annual budget focused on European recovery

“Fortress Europe”, “Pegida” and its laughing stocks

Greece returns to markets at a high cost to taxpayers, after four years out in the cold

Ecuador: UN ‘stands ready’ to support talks, in bid to end political turmoil

Civilians ‘must never be a target,’ says UN in Afghanistan, amid troubling number of casualties during Ramadan

How do you make supply chains more visible without compromising security? A Dutch start-up may have the answer

How trade-based money laundering works and its impact on world finances

Disillusioned young people – France thinks it has a solution

UN chief praises Japanese climate resilience, as Typhoon Hagibis cleanup begins

More children killed by unsafe water, than bullets, says UNICEF chief

New research reveals the true extent of corruption in fisheries

We must stop a devastating ‘battle to the end’ in southwest Syria, declares UN envoy

DiscoverEU: 20,000 more young people will explore Europe in 2020

These are the 3 key skill sets workers will need to learn by 2030

UK: Crawley group wins European Citizens’ Prize

Did Draghi ask the Germans to accept a drastic change of austerity policies?

Joint European Union-United States Statement on addressing global steel and aluminum capacity

New General Assembly President brings ‘valuable insights’ into key UN challenges

3 vital skills for the age of disruption

The UN supports Europe’s military action in Libya and the Mediterranean; Russia and China agree

Europe turns out more jobs this summer

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: Europe’s children urge leaders to commit to climate action at UN Climate Summit in Paris

In aftermath of Libya airstrike deaths, UN officials call for refugees and migrants to be freed from detention

CHINA: five letters that could mean…

The world just took a step closer to eradicating polio

‘Harmonized’ plan launched to support millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

Here’s what a Korean boy band can teach us about globalization 4.0

Presidents of pan-European youth organisations call upon the European Council to preserve the Schengen principles

5 lessons for the future success of virtual and augmented reality

Germany is the world’s most innovative economy

EU Migrant Crisis: Italian Coast Guard Headquarters and Italian Navy to give host national opening addresses at Border Security 2016 in Rome

United States: UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by deadly California wildfires

The price of centralization of human resources for health

Denmark is experimenting with ‘culture vitamins’ to lift people out of depression

How banking with blockchain can stamp out corruption and increase financial inclusion

African cities will double in population by 2050. Here are 4 ways to make sure they thrive

Europe bows to Turkey’s rulers, sends Syrian refugees back to chaos

These countries are driving global demand for coal

Bolivia: UN underlines support for ‘credible, transparent and inclusive’ election

Coronavirus: Commission issues guidelines on testing

A letter from Italy: Our insecurity in COVID-19 times

ICC Appeals Chamber acquits former Congolese Vice President Bemba from war crimes charges

The racial wealth gap in the US is affecting its citizens and its economy – this is how

Eurozone set to abandon monetary and incomes austerity and adopt growth friendly policies

Friday’s Daily Brief: human rights in Sudan, sombre anniversaries for Rwanda and Nigeria, and fears of ‘chaos’ in Libya

Business can be profitable AND drive progress on societal priorities

COVID19 a wake-up call to address development fault lines in Asia and the Pacific

EU, Canada and China co-host international meeting on climate cooperation and a sustainable economic recovery

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

How populist and xenophobic movements in the EU tear apart European businesses and startups

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of GrandVision by EssilorLuxottica

Protecting citizens’ access to social security in case of no-deal Brexit

Amid strong outlook for U.S. economy, risks abound

How can emerging economies navigate the mobility transition?

Vaccine nationalism – and how it could affect us all

Who is culpable in the EU for Ukraine’s defection to Russia?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s