Women and children exit the back of a truck as they arrive at a U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) screening area after being evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, in the desert outside Baghuz, Syria, March 1, 2
Women and children exit the back of a truck as they arrive at a U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) screening area after being evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, in the desert outside Baghuz, Syria, March 1, 2

GENEVA - Thousands of civilians continue to flee Baghuz as Islamic State militants make a final stand to retain control of their last stronghold in Syria, the United Nations reports.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs says increasing numbers of people are managing to escape Baghuz in rural Deir-ez-Zor, but at a very heavy price. In the last week, around 13,000 people — most of them women and children — have arrived at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, according to OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke.

A woman walks with her children at a U.S.-backed S
A woman walks with her children at a U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) screening area after being evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, in the desert outside Baghuz, Syria, March 1, 2019.

He says many are exhausted, hungry and sick.

"Those who are fleeing have told us of desperate situations for civilians in the area they are fleeing from," Laerke said. "Civilians are being killed and injured on a daily basis. There is large-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure and shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities." 

The road from Baghuz to the al-Hol refugee camp is long and arduous. Laerke says more than 84 people have lost their lives either en route to the camp, or shortly after arriving. He says two-thirds of these deaths are children under the age of 5. Another 175 children have been hospitalized for severe acute malnutrition, he reports.

Laerke says the camp is increasingly overcrowded, noting that approximately 45,000 people have arrived since December and more arrive every day. 

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