UN "deeply concerned" as thousands flee fighting in northeast Syria

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-11 21:42:08|Editor: xuxin
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GENEVA, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Friday it is "deeply concerned" by reports of mounting civilian casualties, including many women and children, and large-scale displacement due to renewed fighting in the east of Syria.

At a UN media briefing here, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said that fighting is taking place in the Hajin enclave in Deir ez-Zor governorate, noting that people on the move in the region face more problems due to extreme weather conditions.

Over the past six months, clashes and air strikes in the southeast part of the governorate have forced about 25,000 people to flee, said UNHCR.

"As well as women and children, many elderly people are at risk," said Mahecic.

"It's estimated that 2,000 people remain in the conflict-affected area of Hajin."

Those fleeing report increasingly desperate conditions, with diminishing services and extremely high prices for basic foods. Due to the cold weather, there were reports that "some people were burning their clothes to keep warm."

UNHCR is "worried" for civilians who remain trapped in ISIS-held areas.

Displaced families reaching the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria said that civilians attempting to flee the conflict zone face difficulties and obstacles.

The dangerous and difficult journey and the conditions inside the enclave are reported to have led to the deaths of six children, all aged 12 months or younger.

"Tragically, most have died after arriving at al-Hol, too weakened to survive," said the UNHCR spokesperson.

Emergency health teams in al-Hol are conducting immediate screenings and referrals on the spot. Dealing with wounds, amputated limbs, injuries and frostbites is the priority.

"Acute respiratory infections, cold and flu are also concerns. People are confused, exhausted and distressed, not least because of having left family members behind," said Mahecic.

In Al-Areesha makeshift settlement in Hassakeh governorate, work on sheltering more than 9,600 displaced people has been affected by the rapidly rising water level in the nearby reservoir. More than two-thirds of the camp is under water.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Storm Norma has wreaked havoc among Lebanese and refugee communities this week.

Several days of strong winds, heavy rain and snowfall have led to flooding and damage in towns and villages across Lebanon, which is host to nearly 1 million Syrian refugees.