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Syrian Arab Republic: A camp is filled with children from around the world

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Syrian Arab Republic: A camp is filled with children from around the world

12 Jul 2019
International Committee of the Red Cross
Story by Mari Aftret Mortvedt, ICRC

The Al-Hol camp in Syria is filled with children – foreign children. One photo was all I would have needed to capture faces from Africa, Asia, Europe, America and Oceania.

In fact, two-thirds of the 70,000 people living in Al-Hol are children. Thousands don't have parents or guardians here. Others suffer from preventable diseases or war-related injuries.

One child of Asian origin approached us and asked a question in Arabic, which she then translated for her mother. They, like many here, asked for information about their family members with whom they have lost contact.

The people here also ask if we know when they can return to their home countries and when their governments will assist them. We tell them that this is the role of their governments, but that we at the ICRC remind their governments of their responsibility for their citizens.

We also offer family members who suspect their relatives are in Al-Hol the ability to make contact with separated family.

So many of the separated family members are children. It's as if the population of this camp is shorter than the rest of the world's population.

Children just 4- or 5-years-old are assigned to carry water. They try to work as a team, but water is heavy.

"My sister is so little she can't hold the big water bottles like me, but she entertains me on my way to fill them," 5-year-old Yousef said as he collected water that the ICRC and SARC trucks into the camp every day.

The ICRC has registered more than 3,000 vulnerable children in Al-Hol, many of whom have lived through severe trauma like losing a parent, witnessing violence or being forced to move multiple times. These disruptions can put their moral, social, emotional and cognitive development at risk, and they now need special care and to be reintegrated into a safe environment.

Many children suffer from wounds from the conflict, too. Omar, 10, was injured in the hostilities before he came to Al-Hol camp. He underwent surgery outside of the camp to stabilize his leg.

When the wound became infected he was seen by doctors at a new field hospital inside Al-Hol camp, a joint initiative between the ICRC, SARC, and the Norwegian Red Cross.

"When his siblings saw how bad the injury was, they cried a lot, even more than he did," Omar's mother said.

Find our latest operational update on Syria here.


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