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