Displaced Syrians in the Rubkan camp near the Jordanian border (File)
A UN convoy has finally reached some of the 50,000 displaced people in the Rukban camp in southeast Syria near the Jordanian border.
Abu Abdullah, a member of the civilian council, confirmed that the convoy entered the desert camp on Saturday, days after it was supposed to arrive and weeks after the Assad regime blockaded the area.
The UN said food, sanitation and hygiene supplies, and nutrition and health assistance are being delivered in an operation — the first since January — expected to take three to four days. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent will participate in an emergency vaccination campaign for 10,000 children against measles, polio, and other diseases.
UN access to Rukban had been denied throughout the autumn. Meanwhile, the Assad regime cut the main road into Rukban, halting Bedouin from selling food and essential goods. The blockade was compounded by Jordan’s prevention of any trade across a border which was closed in June 2016 following an Islamic State suicide bombing.
Residents and local medics said at least 14 people had died in recent weeks from lack of medical care, with the brief closure of the UN-supported medical facility and clinics struggling with exhausted supplies and expensive medicines. The UN said thousands of residents, including children, are at risk.
UN relief trucks planned to deliver aid a week ago after the Assad regime finally granted clearance, but were delayed for logistical and security reasons.
The regime has sought the return of the displaced to home areas, despite issues over detention, forced conscription, and the status of property. Russia, the regime’s key ally, has used Rukban to press for the closure of the US base at Tanf, on the Jordanian and Iraqi borders.
The desert area lies within a 55-km (34-mile) exclusion zone around Tanf, established by the US to dissuade attacks by pro-Assad forces.
Ali al-Za’tari, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, said on Saturday, “While this much-needed delivery is an important achievement, a longer-term solution must be found for the many civilians living in Rukban.”