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Two babies killed by winter cold in northwest Syria: UN

A boy clears snow from one of the tents at a camp for the internally displaced near the city of Jisr al-Shughur in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib on January 26, 2022. ©AFP

Haranbush (Syria) (AFP) - Two Syrian infant girls have died from harsh winter weather in northwest Syria where snow and rain have destroyed the tents of hundreds of displaced families, the United Nations said Tuesday.

"A seven-day-old girl and a two-month-old girl have died from the cold in Idlib province," the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA told AFP.

According to an AFP correspondent in northern Idlib, both children were announced dead on Tuesday.

They were taken to the Al-Rahman specialist hospital in the Idlib village of Haranbush which has received an influx of children in recent days amid sub-zero temperatures, the correspondent said.

Deaths due to the cold are an annual occurence in Syria's last major rebel enclave, which the UN says is home to 2.8 million displaced people. 

Dwindling donor funds have already caused dire shortages of medicine and equipment in hospitals and clinics in the region, many of which are now at risk of closing down. 

"Children are at risk of the cold.They live in worn-out tents and there is a lack of winter clothes and fuel," said OCHA spokesman Patrick Nicholson. 

"The problem is getting worse due to the economic crisis, lack of resources to provide winter aid and increased needs."

According to OCHA, harsh weather in January has destroyed at least 935 tents and damaged more than 9,000 others in several displacement sites in Syria's north.

Unsafe heating methods, including exposed rudimentary heaters, have often triggered deadly fires.

Since the start of the year, 68 fires were reported, which resulted in two deaths and 24 injuries in northern Syria alone, according to OCHA.

The Save the Children charity condemned the latest deaths in a statement.

"It is incomprehensible that any child should face the winter scared for their life," it said.

"These avoidable and tragic deaths are a dreadful example of how children urgently need more humanitarian support."

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