Barely alive after IS, Syrian babies haunted by malnutrition

Al Hol: They survived the IS group’s crumbling “caliphate” by a thread, but skeletal babies streaming into this displacement camp in northeastern Syria now face a race against malnutrition.
Truckloads of gaunt women and children fleeing IS’s last stand in the Euphrates Valley disembark daily at the Al Hol camp, including 200 who arrived on Thursday.
“They’re just skin and bones when they get here,” Kurdish Red Crescent (KRC) paediatrician Dr Antar Senno said at a makeshift clinic in Al Hol.
They have suffered desperate conditions in the last pocket held by IS near the village of Baghouz, close to the Iraqi border, with little food, water or medicine.
KRC workers quickly scan the infants — particularly those under a year-old — for thin limbs, taut and dried-out skin, or signs of diarrhoea, said Senno.
“The team combs the entire reception tent. If they see a case that could be malnutrition, they immediately pull the child aside and put him in an ambulance,” he said.
But the journey does not end there. Medics at Al Hol, which has been flooded with more than 25,000 displaced people in recent weeks as military operations ramped up, do not have the capacity to treat severely malnourished children and must send them on to hospitals in the city of Hasakeh an hour away.
That makes every moment even more precious, said Senno.
“They’re practically dead when they get here. But if we can catch them and send them to hospital in Hasakeh, we can save their lives,”
he said.
“It’s not about the same day. It’s about the same minute.”
More than 37,000 people have fled the shrinking IS-held enclave in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces bear down on the fighters. — AFP