IRC data reveals staggering child mortality in Al Hol camp, Northeast Syria - urging repatriation of foreign children

Al Hol, Syria, September 16, 2019 — Al Hol camp entails a purgatory-like existence for nearly 70,000 currently residing there, the vast majority of which are women and children, including 7,000 children of foreign nationals housed in the Annex to the camp who are paying the highest price for the perceived misdeeds of their parents.

The IRC has been extremely concerned about the deaths of children arriving to al Hol camp, and new data now shows that the numbers of children under 5 dying has more than doubled since March*. Between December and September 1st, 339 deaths of children were recorded - over 80% of the total deaths** in Al Hol camp to date.

The IRC’s most recent data reveals that a third of these deaths have occurred in tents, with children not even reaching health facilities.*** The main causes being recorded are severe malnutrition with complications, diarrhea with dehydration and pneumonia - a proxy indicator of poor health conditions upon arrival and poor access to humanitarian assistance.

While children are dying across the camp, the highest numbers of under 5 deaths are of children living in the Annex. The IRC's most recent data indicates that a third of all child deaths since December were of children living in the Annex - double and even triple the number occurring in other parts of the camp.****

While the availability of health services across the camp has generally improved in recent months, few services are available inside the Annex – but Annex residents also face extreme movement restrictions that constrain their access to these services outside of the Annex. Women are for instance regularly forced to give birth alone in their tents. We fear a narrative of “radicalization” is hindering humanitarian access and the impartial delivery of aid to all those in need – including foreign women and children. At the same time, lack of access and aid is a key factor driving the tension and violence - and the IRC fears mortality rates will continue to increase in the coming months due to cold weather.

Misty Buswell, Middle East Policy, Advocacy and Communications Director, stated: “The fates of the 70,000 people in Al Hol who lived an appalling existence under ISIS are uncertain; foreigners face even more uncertainty as few countries are willing to repatriate their citizens- threatening to create a generation of stateless children with no prospects or hope for a future.

All those in al Hol camp are entitled to humanitarian assistance without discrimination and life-saving services need to be urgently scaled up, particularly for foreign nationals in the camp. Additional support is also needed for resources to treat trauma and distress for all these children. The tragic increase in child deaths underscores the need for countries of origin to repatriate these children and ensure that they don’t become stateless, and for the international community to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these innocent victims of the conflict. This will include the provision of education and psychosocial support conducive to rehabilitation and recovery necessary for peaceful and productive futures.”

Note to Editors

*There were 142 deaths of children under 5 years recorded by 15 March, 313 recorded by 1 September.

** 339 of 406 total recorded deaths to date based on latest available data.

***34% of child deaths by mid-July took place in tents.

****Of the 339 deaths of children recorded by 1 September, 90 as of 1 August took place in the Annex to Al Hol. This is second only to the entrance/reception area to Al Hol which recorded 65 child deaths by August 1.


The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.


Chiara Trincia
International Rescue Committee
+1 646 771 3214

IRC Global Communications
+1 646 761 0307