Thousands of internally displaced Syrian civilians, who have desperately fled north toward the Turkish border due to the bloody onslaught by the Assad regime in Idlib’s de-escalation zone, are battling to survive the bitter cold sweeping through their makeshift tents.
Children in particular are bearing the brunt of the nine-year brutal conflict and massive exodus in the region.
A forcibly displaced one-and-a-half-year-old girl, Iman Laila, tragically died on Thursday in her father's arms due to respiratory illness caused by cold temperatures while he was rushing her to the al-Shifa Hospital in Afrin.
The grief-stricken father had walked for two hours to make it to the emergency room, but his daughter died hours before reaching it, according to a medic, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
She was also diagnosed with cerebellar atrophy, which can result in movement and learning disorders, according to medical reports.
The family took refuge in camps near the Turkish border due to escalating clashes in northwestern Syria after being displaced from Eastern Ghouta.
More than 800,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, have fled their homes during a Russian-backed Syrian military campaign to clear the opposition in northwest Syria since Dec. 1, a senior U.N. spokesperson said on Thursday.
U.N. officials say the region is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. Those on the run in Idlib and adjoining Aleppo province are joining close to 400,000 people who fled earlier bouts of fighting to the safety of camps near the Turkish border.
In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.
Syrian regime attacks in recent weeks on Turkish troops stationed in Idlib have further sparked tensions in the region.