Children in the Rukban camp for displaced Syrians, in southeast Syria near the Jordanian border (File)

Residents of the long-besieged Rukban camp in southeast Syria have appealed to the UN for assistance to ensure medical supplies, clean water, and adequate schools.

The 13,000 civilians who remain the camp, near the Jordanian border, have written the UN children’s agency UNICEF to aid 1,500 students. They cite skin diseases from contaminated water and the need for medication and treatment of disabled children. Students are “sitting on the ground because of the lack of seats”, and schools need roofing and insulation.

A copy of the letter, from the Local Council of the camp, was provided to EA as it was sent to UNICEF.

Assad regime forces cut off the main route into Rukban in October 2018, leading to shortages of food, medicine, and vital supplies, and Damascus has allowed only three UN aid convoys into the camp since January 2018.

Russia has enabled the siege with military support and sustained propaganda and disinformation operations, while the blockade has been compounded by Jordan’s closure of the border in June 2016 after an Islamic State suicide attack.

The US military has refused to provide assistance, fearing a confrontation with Moscow, even though Rukban is within a 55-km (34-mile) security zone around the American base at Tanf on the Iraqi border.

There is only a rudimentary clinic in the camp, staffed by nurses, with basic supplies. Although emergency cases are supposed to be evacuated to Jordan, residents — including pregnant women and women in childbirth — have died from inadequate treatment and the lack of medicine.

The Choice for Rukban’s Besieged: Starve or Risk Detention by Regime
Syria Daily, June 25: “The Cusp of Death” — No Bread or Flour in Besieged Rukban Camp

Failed UN Promises?

Rukban once held more than 50,000 Syrians, displaced from their homes in 2015 by ISIS assaults.More than 70% of the remaining residents are women and children.

In UN surveys, more than 90% of those in the camp say they wish to return to home areas, but almost all fear detentions, forced conscription, and harassment by the regime.

The UN delivered some aid in September but the local council claimed that residents were deceived: “[The UN] promised before to allow food and medicine into the camp but it didn’t fulfil this promise.”

See Syria Daily, Oct 1: Anger at UN as Another 150 Leave Besieged Rukban Camp

A council spokesperson claimed that the UN delegation pressed the displaced to leave, despite their concerns about safety in regime-held areas. Describing the delegation as “unseemly in handling the camp’s affairs”, Shukri Shihab said, “We refused to deal with or meet it.”

The council said entry to future UN convoys would be refused unless they brought medical supplies.