U.N .aid con­voy reaches Syria desert camp

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - World | Deaths -

A con­voy of 78 trucks car­ry­ing life-saving as­sis­tance reached a re­mote camp for the dis­placed on Syria’s bor­der with Jor­dan on Satur­day, where tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are stranded in the desert amid dwin­dling sup­plies.

The United Na­tions and the Syr­ian Arab Red Cres­cent said their joint con­voy reached Ruk­ban camp and would de­liver as­sis­tance to 50,000 peo­ple The con­voy was sup­posed to ar­rive last week but was de­layed due to lo­gis­tics and se­cu­rity con­cerns. The U.N. said the op­er­a­tion is ex­pected to take three to four days.

The camp is home to around 45,000 peo­ple, many of them women and chil­dren, who are camped out in ex­tremely dire con­di­tions. At least four peo­ple have died in the past month due to mal­nu­tri­tion and lack of med­i­cal care as re­gional pow­ers trade blame over who is re­spon­si­ble.

“We are de­liv­er­ing food, san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene sup­plies, nu­tri­tion and health as­sis­tance in ad­di­tion to other core re­lief items in co­op­er­a­tion with the Syr­ian Arab Red Cres­cent, said Ali Al-Za’tari, the U.N.’s hu­man­i­tar­ian co­or­di­na­tor in Syria. He said an emer­gency vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign to pro­tect some 10,000 chil­dren against deadly dis­eases would also be con­ducted.

Imad Ghali, a camp res­i­dent, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the aid reached the zone sur­round­ing the camp but has not yet been dis­trib­uted to res­i­dents.

Peo­ple started gath­er­ing in Ruk­ban three years ago, flee­ing Is­lamic State mil­i­tants and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coali­tion, Rus­sia and Syria. Jor­dan sealed its bor­der and stopped reg­u­lar aid de­liv­er­ies in 2016 af­ter a cross-bor­der IS at­tack that killed seven Jor­da­nian sol­diers.

The last aid de­liv­ery from Jor­dan was in Jan­uary, leav­ing the camp’s res­i­dents de­pen­dent on goods largely smug­gled from govern­ment-held ar­eas. The sit­u­a­tion sharply de­te­ri­o­rated af­ter the Syr­ian govern­ment blocked sup­ply routes last month fol­low­ing a botched rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal with rebel groups in the area.

Rus­sia, a close ally of the Syr­ian govern­ment, has blamed the U.S. for the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the sit­u­a­tion in Ruk­ban, which is within a 20-square mile “de­con­flic­tion zone” set up by U.S. forces sta­tioned in the nearby Tanf mil­i­tary base.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. spe­cial en­voy for the coali­tion fight­ing the Is­lamic State group, tweeted: “Good News,” adding that the hu­man­i­tar­ian con­voy reached Ruk­ban af­ter mul­ti­ple de­lays from Syr­ian govern­ment au­thor­i­ties.

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