Women giving birth in unsafe conditions and children dying in Syrian camps, MSF reveal

Al Hol camp, northeastern Syria. Picture: MSF / Doctors Without Borders

Children are dying from preventable diseases and women are giving birth in unsafe conditions in a Syrian camp, Médecins Sans Frontières have said.

Those in Al Hol camp, northeastern Syria have been displaced from where Islamic State (IS) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been fighting.

The overcrowded camp now houses some 73,000 people, who are contained inside by local security forces with the vast majority of them women and children.

“They arrived crammed into the back of trucks,” says Will Turner, MSF emergency manager for Syria. “Most were covered in mud, many were wounded or suffering from illness.

People were clearly hungry and many children were malnourished.

“There are humanitarian organisations and donors that are not willing to provide services to certain areas of the camp due to people’s perceived affiliations,” Mr Turner added.

“Healthcare should not be compromised. Regardless of people's background, nationality, status and origin of displacement, everyone is entitled to access to medical and humanitarian assistance in a timely manner.”

Water and sanitation in the camps are not meeting minimum emergency standards as the humanitarian crisis in the region continues.

Numerous latrines are non-functional and, as a result, people are forced to defecate in the open, according to Mr Turner.

“We are seeing patients with illnesses such as acute watery diarrhoea due to the poor water and sanitation conditions.”

As summer approaches, there are fears that the situation will only get worse as people in the camps will die from diseases if they cannot get sufficient healthcare.

“As summer temperatures start to soar, we are very concerned about the impact of people living in unfit conditions,” says Turner.

No child should die from dehydration or other preventable diseases because of neglect and lack of access to basic healthcare.

MSF reiterated their call for humanitarian assistance to the Al Hol and called for all people in the camp to be treated humanely.

MSF launched a response in Al Hol camp in January this year providing emergency medical care and donating tents, hygiene kits and blankets. In the intervening months, they have expanded the support they are giving and have treated over 17,000 patients in northeastern Syria.

There has been unrest and civil war in Syria since the 2011 Arab Spring protests.

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