At least 15 children, one as young as just an hour old, have died in Syria in the past month because of freezing temperatures and poor medical care, officials say.
UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere released a statement on Tuesday confirming the deaths in two separate regions of Syria.
“Freezing temperatures and harsh living conditions in Rukban, at the southwestern border of Syria with Jordan, are increasingly putting children’s lives at risk,” he said. “In just one month, at least eight children - most of them under four months and the youngest only one hour old - have died.”
Cappelaere said that women and children account for around 80 percent of the population of 45,000. In addition to the “extreme cold,” he said that the lack of medical care for pregnant women or new infants has made living conditions more hazardous.
“The lives of babies continue to be cut short by health conditions that are preventable or treatable. There are no excuses for this in the 21st century. This tragic manmade loss of life must end now.”
Seven children also died in eastern Syria, where Cappelaere said violence forced many families to leave their homes, leaving themselves exposed to freezing temperatures “without shelter or basic supplies.”
“The dangerous and difficult journey has reportedly killed seven children – most of them under 1 year old,” he said.
Cappelaere made a humanitarian plea for help, urging those who can help to do so.
“UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict and those with influence over them to provide safe passage for all families seeking safety out of the line of fire, and to facilitate access to lifesaving medical assistance for their children in Hajin and elsewhere in Syria.”
“Surely, this is not too much to ask when the lives of tens of thousands of children - children - depend on it,” Cappelaere said.