The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) stated that eight children died of hypothermia due to freezing temperatures in the southeastern Rukban refugee camp. Aid workers previously warned that Syrian refugees were in danger of facing winter temperatures as low as -1C without proper shelter and blankets, according to The Guardian.
Rukban hosts nearly 45,000 refugees of which 80% are women and children.
Seven other children, most under the age of one, died on the journey from the northeastern city of Hajin — one of the last bastions held by the Islamic state — to Rubkan.
The UN’s reports indicate that in some cases, Syrian children are suffering gravely. “In just one month, at least eight children — most of them under four months and the youngest only one hour old — have died,” UNICEF’s Regional Director Geert Cappelaere said.
“Extreme cold and the lack of medical care, for mothers before and during birth and for new infants, have exacerbated already dire conditions for children and their families,” Cappelaere said, explaining how the extreme natural conditions add to the already devastating reality of the ongoing war.
To make matters worse, the geographic and political conditions surrounding the camp makes it difficult for humanitarian aid to get in. The sites proximity to the Jordanian border as well as the presence of U.S. troops and their rebel allies are some of the main causes, according to the Daily Star.
An emergency supply convoy which arrived in Rubkan in November 2018 is the last one to reach the camp in ten months.
“The lives of babies continue to be cut short by health conditions that are preventable or treatable. There are no excuses for this in the 21st century,” Cappelaere remarked.
The fighting between Syrian rebels and al-Qaida affiliates in the province of Idlib is posed to cause further displacement. While the United States-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria began the process of withdrawing at the beginning of the month.
However, Russian Information Agency Novosti (RIA) reported that Moscow, which has deployed forces into Syria in support of the Damascus government, has stated that it was under the impression that the United States intended to stay despite the announced withdrawal.