A stream of new IDP arrivals from Baghouz in south-eastern Deir-Er-Zour to Al Hol camp has continued, with over 5,200 arriving between 5-7 March. Thousands more are expected in coming days.
Al Hol camp has significantly surpassed its capacity, with the current population exceeding 62,000 individuals. More than 90 per cent of the new arrivals are women and children. Children represent the vast majority, 23 per cent are under the age of 12 and 12 per cent are under the age of 5.
All new arrivals are hosted in the camp’s overcrowded reception area where they undergo additional security screening by local security actors, and where triage by humanitarian partners takes place to provide health services and identify immediate protection needs. Due to the huge influx of IDPs, both Phase 7, the newest expansion of the camp, and Annex 2 which hosts 3rd country nationals, are fast approaching maximum capacity.
Annex 3 is being prepared.
The most urgent need remains shelter, both in terms of space and tents. Other pressing needs are water, sanitation and hygiene, health and protection; particularly of vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, children, elderly people and people with disabilities. The dire humanitarian conditions in Baghouz, the arduous journey to Al Hol and the saturation in the waiting and reception areas continue to impact the most vulnerable.
Suar transit-center, en route to Al Hol, with a capacity to host 400 people, has not been used in past days, with IDPs directly transferred to Al Hol.
Number of reported deaths since 4 December 2018, either en route, shortly after arriving at the camp or after referral, has reached 97; two thirds of them children under the age of five. Main causes are hypothermia, pneumonia, dehydration or malnutrition complications. Three children died en route to Al Hol on March 6-7.
Families arriving in Al Hol camp have been without access to health and other essential services for a long period of time and are therefore in a fragile state, compounded by the fatigue of the journey.
At least 243 unaccompanied and separated children have been identified in the camp; of which 41 have been reunified with their families. The provision of interim care services and identification, documentation, family tracing and reunification remains a priority - the number of unaccompanied children exceeds by far the capacity of interim care arrangements.
Psychological first aid is still required as new arrivals continue to show signs of exhaustion and distress. Equally, the provision of information on available services is essential to facilitate prompt access to life-saving assistance, in a non-discriminatory and equitable way.
On 5 March, tensions ran high in phase 5 when 200 people, mostly women, demanded information about their male family members, detained by local security actors, and threw rocks at security staff. No one was injured but humanitarian services were suspended when gunshots were fired to disperse the crowd. In line with international humanitarian and human rights law, it is key that families are promptly informed of the whereabouts of detained relatives and communication is facilitated, either directly or through services of specialized humanitarian actors.
Humanitarian partners continue to provide new arrivals with a hot meal, NFI kits and winterization items. Two interim care centers are open in phase 3, catering to unaccompanied and separated children and children with disabilities. A 24/7 emergency child protection team supports new arrivals in the reception/screening area while emergency integrated protection teams are mobilized around the clock across the camp. A health and nutrition team supports new arrivals through consultations for pregnant and lactating women, nutrition interventions and distribution of nutrition supplies. Additional GBV teams have been mobilized.
Water supply and quality services are provided in the camp and there are no gaps in terms of domestic and drinking water. Additional nine 2,000 liter water tanks are now installed in phase 7. An additional 36 emergency toilets will be ready in phase 7 by March 8 with some 80 toilets already installed in the reception/screening area. Toilet cleaning, garbage collection and hygiene awareness campaigns are ongoing in the reception/screening area and in phase 5 and 7. Currently there are 20 latrines per person in phases 1-5, with ongoing efforts to reach that same target in phase 7. Hygiene items are distributed after registration but due to a high number of children suffering from diarrhea, more diapers/hygiene items are needed.
9,900 family tents have been distributed since 4 December; of which 600 have been provided in the past two days. A 200,000m2 space has been identified as Annex 3 for 3rd country nationals, in which the preparation for 1,200 new family tents has started. In the coming days, 1,285 family tents are to be transported to the camp, in addition to 400 currently in stock in Hassakeh. Gaps remain with efforts underway to secure additional tents to accommodate expected arrivals.
44 tons of health supplies are to be airlifted from Damascus to Qamishli before March 9. Two vaccination teams are working in Al Hol’s reception area. More than 220 children with SAM complications have been admitted to hospital; 55 are currently being treated. The children that have been discharged are being followed up on in the camp. Currently, 97 patients from Al Hol camp are hospitalized in Al Hikma hospital and 6 in Al Hayat hospital. This latest influx puts an enormous burden on hospitals and triage staff. To strengthen emergency field presence, additional 7-8 doctors will be deployed to support with treatment of patients at medical points and hospital referrals. As of today, 520 patients have been diagnosed with Leishmaniosis and are being treated. Al Hol is among 9 camps in northeast Syria to be covered in an upcoming deworming campaign.
No food gaps have been reported. Ready-to-eat rations are handed to new arrivals, as a first line response in the reception area where cooked meals are also being prepared. Some 3,000 rations were handed out last week, reaching 15,000 people. General food rations/Monthly food kits distribution will take place on March 10, targeting the entire camp.
Additional financial resources for sustained services are urgently required to meet growing needs at Al Hol camp.
The Syria Humanitarian Fund has been mobilized with a $4 million allocation to support the protection, shelter, NFIs and WASH sectors. However, this only partially covers the scale of needs on the ground. More resources are needed across all sectors.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.