Aid agencies are warning that those fleeing Isis’s last strip of territory are “in the worst condition since the crisis began”, as 12 died after arriving at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria.
Two thousand women and children arrived at the camp overnight into Wednesday after escaping fighting in Baghouz, with 60 needing immediate hospitalisation and another 12 deaths recorded, the International Rescue Committee, which runs the camp, said in a statement on Thursday.
“These women and children are in the worst condition we have seen since the crisis first began. Many have been caught up in the fighting and dozens have been burnt or badly injured by shrapnel,” Wendy Taeuber, IRC’s Iraq and northeast Syria country director said. It is unclear how many children were among the 12 who died.
Kurdish authorities and aid agencies are struggling to cope with the huge numbers of those who have been displaced, with more than 60,000 arriving at the camp since fighting began. Some 90 per cent of the arrivals have been women and children.
Malnutrition, freezing temperatures and a lack of medical care have led to the deaths of at least 138 people since December, the IRC said. The vast majority (80 per cent) of those who died were infants under five years old, with two-thirds being babies one-year-old and under.
The main cause of death for infants in al-Hol has been severe acute malnutrition, pneumonia and dehydration, which reflects the dire conditions they had been living under in Baghouz, Paul Donohoe, from the IRC
Since the final push to defeat the jihadis, there has also been an uptick in war-related injuries, with women and children caught up in the fighting, he added.
Hospitals are overwhelmed, with an increasing number of people needing treatment for severe burns or shrapnel wounds.
“We are expecting another 3,000 to arrive soon, and we are very worried that they may be in even worse shape,” Ms Taeuber said.
“We don’t know how many more women and children, if any, are still in Baghouz. However, while fighting continues everything must be done to ensure that they are kept out of the line of fire.”