Geneva - The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on international and regional aid organizations to take urgent action and provide relief to the thousands of refugees and displaced persons in the al-Houl refugee camp in north-east Syria, as they suffer from catastrophic conditions.

   More than 20 children have died from the cold in recent weeks; about 100 people have died during their attempt to reach the camp   

Thousands of civilians, 90% of whom are women and children, have been displaced to the al-Houl camp as a result of fighting in the Deir ez-Zour countryside in eastern Syria, although the camp is not suitable to accommodate such large numbers. Until the time of writing, almost 62,000 people moved into the camp, which already housed Syrian and Iraqi people, resulting in overcrowding beyond the capacity the camp could accommodate.

 At least three children died this week as a result of malnutrition and severe cold, adding to more than 20 children who have also died from the cold in recent weeks. About 100 people have died during their attempt to reach the camp, or shortly after they have arrived.

 There is a large number of unaccompanied children in the camp, estimated at more than 240, while families are forced to sleep in the open, and in the extreme cold.

 Despite the assistance provided by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to refugees and internally displaced persons in the camp, this assistance can hardly be adequate given the large number of refugees inside the camp, apart from the fact that the aid is not distributed equally to all people in the camp.

 Euro-Med Monitor referred to the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict, where paragraph 6 states that “Women and children belonging to the civilian population ... shall not be deprived of shelter, food, medical aid or other inalienable rights.”

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor stresses the need to distribute aid to everyone without discrimination based on political, ethnic or religious differences, further stressing the right of everyone to receive humanitarian assistance.

 Euro-Med Monitor also states that international humanitarian law applicable in situations of conflict prohibits civilians from leaving their place of residence unless necessary to ensure their safety. If they do, it is essential that the safety and protection rules of these civilians be ensured, and that appropriate shelter, food, medicine, clothing, and others are provided.