As many as seven children who were displaced by fighting in Syria’s northwest Idlib region have died after suffering under freezing cold conditions in camps, the humanitarian organization Save the Children reported Tuesday.
The deaths of the children – including a seven-month-old baby – were confirmed by the Hurras Network, a local organization that has a partnership with Save the Children.
More than a quarter of Idlib’s population has been displaced in recent months amid a renewed offensive from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which aims to retake control of the region from Jihadist rebel groups.
The regime’s offensive – aided by Russia – has been condemned by the U.N. as a “vicious campaign of attrition” that is causing a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
The “vast majority” of those who have been forced to flee their homes in the region are women and children, Save the Children said, estimating the number of displaced children at 450,000.
Those who have been displaced have largely found themselves enduring “absolutely inhumane living conditions” in make-shift camps, including 80,000 people that are living in “open fields covered in snow, exposed to northern Syria’s freezing winter.”
“Even when they do manage to find a tent, a heater and a mattress, they risk being asphyxiated by their heating equipment or seeing their shelter burn down,” Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Country Director, said.
The report notes that two sisters – aged four and three- were killed when their family’s heater caught fire, engulfing their tent.
Two other girls – aged nine and ten – were killed by asphyxiation due to their heating equipment.
Other children, including a one-year-old girl, a seven-month-old boy, and a 14-year-old boy, succumbed to freezing temperatures.
“I did not like the snow in the camp because it was really cold and both my sister and I got sick,” a 13-year-old girl displaced to a camp told Save the Children.
“Part of our tent collapsed because of the weight of the snow on it. I did not have clothes or anything to keep me warm in our tent.”
The organization said it is calling on all warring parties to protect children and uphold international human rights laws.