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Syria: Spike in child deaths in Al-Hol camp raises concerns

Eight under the age of five have died within a week, as health conditions worsen
The children who died include two Iraqis, one Syrian and at least three of foreign nationalities (AFP)

Eight children under the age of five have died within five days of each other in a camp housing thousands of people who fled former Islamic State group (IS) territory, warned Save the Children on Friday. 

The children who died include two Iraqis, one Syrian and at least three of foreign nationalities.

Save the Children said the causes of death were heart failure, internal bleeding and severe malnutrition.

The charity added that the deaths could have been avoided if the children were treated in a field hospital. 

In a statement published on its website, Save the Children said the Kurdish run al-Hol camp was on the "brink of a Covid-19" outbreak with health facilities deteriorating at a rapid rate. 

"The spike in under-five mortality was recorded between 6-10 August and is more than three times higher than the mortality rate since the beginning of 2020 [and] we are seeing a collective failure at all levels to protect children," said Save the Children Syria response director Sonia Khush. 

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"This is the result of ongoing failure of the UN Security Council to reopen the closest border-crossing, leading to unforgivable delays in services."

Medical assistance to al-Hol, which holds the families of IS suspects, among others, has decreased since the Security Council in January scrapped a key border crossing used to deliver UN-funded medical aid to camp residents.

Save the Children said border crossing restrictions had reduced capacity of operational health facilities in Al-Hol by 40 percent.

The health crisis in al-Hol has been further compounded by the coronavirus due to overcrowded conditions.

Earlier this month, the United Nations said that three health workers had tested positive for Covid-19. 

Two days later, Save the Children said it recorded the first case among camp residents, warning the disease would spread because of reduced medical access. 

Kurdish authorities who run the camp have said reported 171 Covid-19 cases, including eight deaths in areas under its control.