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Syrian children dying in frigid journeys to aid camps, U.N. analysis says

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Syrian children dying in frigid journeys to aid camps, U.N. analysis says
A WHO report Thursday said nearly three dozen children have died in recent weeks while trying to reach a shelter camp, to escape violence. File Photo by EPA-EFE

Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Nearly three dozen children have died in the last two months while attempting to find shelter in Syria during perilously cold weather, United Nations officials said Thursday.

In a new analysis, the World Health Organization said the Syrian children must face freezing temperatures, starvation and sleep deprivation as they make their way to carious camps. The agency said it's extremely concerned about the "deteriorating humanitarian situation" in the Al-Hol camp in the Al-Hasakeh region of Syria.

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"The situation in Al-Hol camp is heartbreaking. Children are dying from hypothermia as their families flee to safety," Elizabeth Hoff, a WHO representative in Syria, said in a statement Thursday. "We are scaling up our efforts in Al Hol, but we need faster approvals to allow us deliver supplies, and we need guaranteed access to both the camp and the roads leading to it.

"We call on all parties to give us unhindered access so that we can reach these people and give them the help they desperately need."

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About 23,000 people, mostly women and children, have ventured to the camp in the last two months. Twenty-nine children have died.

"Many of them have walked or traveled in open trucks for several days and nights in the bitterly cold winter weather," the agency said. "Their journeys have been delayed en route by lengthy security screening procedures in an exposed field, and their ordeal has not ended on arrival to the camp."

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The report said arriving refugees must spend the first several nights in an open-air reception area without tents, blankets or heat.

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An estimated 33,000 refugees are now at the camp, and officials say they're "overwhelmed and struggling to cope with the sheer numbers of people."

WHO has four mobile health teams operating in the camp to help screen new arrivals and refer them to hospitals.

Syria's civil war has been going since 2011, coupled with a concurrent fight against Islamic State militants.

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