A baby gets some rest in one of the tents put up in Hasiya for the displaced Syrian families. Photo: UNHCR/A. Blazy

31 May 2013 ? Warning that conditions are deteriorating in areas of western Syria, the United Nations refugee agency today said it is assisting hundreds of families who have fled the fighting in the city of Al-Qusair.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) said that since the fighting intensified in Al-Qusair three weeks ago, at least 700 families ? or some 3,500 people ? have arrived to Hasiya, a small nearby town with a population of 16,000.

UNCHR and its partners visited Hasiya earlier this week to assess the situation and needs of those displaced, and during the visit the agency also delivered essential relief items such as blankets and mattresses to 500 families.

?The needs [?] remain huge, and UNHCR is currently looking at how we can deliver additional items to cover the needs of these new arrivals,? UNHCR spokesperson Dan McNorton told reporters in Geneva.

?The families we spoke to told us they urgently need milk, diapers, medical supplies and adequate shelter. Water to the town is also in short supply and insufficient for the swelling population,? he said, adding that most of the population there depends on water trucked in once a week by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

?Due to the poor sanitation and hygiene conditions in which people were living, many, especially children, were suffering from diarrhoea, respiratory problems, high fevers, ear infections and skin diseases,? he said.

The displaced families have been staying in three schools and an unfinished building, as well as in tents donated by locals. During the assessment visit, UNHCR identified a building that could act as a safe location to host displaced families and to deliver additional essential items such as mattresses, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheets and hygiene items.

Since March 2011, fighting between the Syrian Government and opposition forces seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad has killed more than 70,000 people, and left 6.8 million people in need. In addition, the UN estimates that some 1.5 million Syrians have fled their country to escape conflict.

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