Syria Ruk­ban camp on verge of disas­ter af­ter UN is forced to de­lay aid de­liv­er­ies

The National - News - - NEWS - MINA ALDROUBI

Syr­ian civil­ians iso­lated in a desert camp near the Jor­da­nian bor­der are at risk of star­va­tion and death af­ter a UN en­voy car­ry­ing aid was post­poned, in the civil war’s lat­est hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe.

Al Ruk­ban camp is home to about 50,000 res­i­dents who are trapped af­ter Jor­dan closed its bor­der with Syria fol­low­ing an at­tack on its sol­diers by ISIS in 2016.

Des­per­ately needed aid de­liv­er­ies have re­peat­edly failed or been post­poned, in­clud­ing a UN con­voy that was sup­posed to en­ter last Thurs­day but has now been in­def­i­nitely de­layed.

“We were in­formed by the UN that on Oc­to­ber 25 an aid con­voy would ar­rive to the camp,” Khalid Al Ali, a res­i­dent in­side the camp, told The Na­tional.

“That morn­ing we re­ceived a let­ter from the UN in­form­ing us that the de­liv­ery was post­poned un­til Oc­to­ber 29, but we still have not re­ceived any new sup­plies.

The camp is home to about 65,000 peo­ple, many of them women and chil­dren, who are camped out­side in the open desert.

“There are no words to de­scribe the tragic sit­u­a­tion in­side the camp,” Mr Al Ali said. “It is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing minute by minute, espe­cially af­ter the storm that has hit us.

He said that med­i­cal and food sup­plies were run­ning low.

Am­man has re­fused to al­low sup­plies to cross its bor­der, say­ing the camp is Syria’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. But Syr­ian aid agen­cies have been un­able to de­liver sup­plies be­cause of se­cu­rity clear­ances from armed groups and Da­m­as­cus.

Jor­da­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Ay­man Safadi said the road to Al Ruk­ban camp is now ac­ces­si­ble from the Syr­ian ter­ri­to­ries and that aid could reach it from in­side Syria.

“Meeting the needs of the camp’s com­mu­nity is a re­spon­si­bil­ity shared by the UN and Syria,” Mr Safadi said.

The camp lies within a 55-kilo­me­tre de-con­flic­tion zone set up by the Pen­tagon with the aim of block­ing Ira­nian sup­ply routes to the re­gion and pre­vent­ing pro-regime

forces from op­er­at­ing there.

The United Na­tions Emer­gency Re­lief Co-or­di­na­tor, Mark Low­cock, told a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meeting on Mon­day that civil­ians at Al Ruk­ban had not re­ceived any as­sis­tance since Jan­uary this year.

Mr Low­cock said the res­i­dents were be­com­ing in­creas­ingly des­per­ate.

But even if the con­voy had been able to de­liver the ship­ment, civil­ians in the iso­lated camp would largely con­tinue to be cut off from aid, com­mer­cial ship­ments of food and med­i­cal care, in an area where of­fi­cials and health work­ers say hunger and dis­ease are on the rise.

The UN Res­i­dent and Hu­man­i­tar­ian Co-or­di­na­tor in Syria, Ali Al Zatari said that “the de­ci­sion to post­pone the Al Ruk­ban hu­man­i­tar­ian con­voy, which was planned for Oc­to­ber, is based on avail­able in­for­ma­tion of real se­cu­rity threat against the con­voy”.

“We are de­ter­mined to bring hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to civil­ians in Ruk­ban camp, and dis­cus­sions are on­go­ing to iden­tify means to de­liver the hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance while en­sur­ing the safety of the hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers,” Mr Al Zatari said.


A Syr­ian refugee and her child from the in­for­mal Ruk­ban camp off the bor­der with Jor­dan. The camp is on the edge of hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe

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