First aid since January reaches displaced Syrians near Jordan border
BEIRUT, Lebanon (UPDATED) – An aid convoy on Saturday, November 3, reached a camp for displaced Syrians near the Jordanian border, the United Nations (UN) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) said, in the first such delivery since January.
"The UN and SARC are delivering humanitarian assistance to 50,000 people in need at Rukban camp in southeast Syria," the UN said in a statement, adding the delivery was expected to take 3 to 4 days.
The convoy included much-needed food, as well as health assistance, the statement said.
"We are delivering food, sanitation, and hygiene supplies, nutrition and health assistance in addition to other core relief items," the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Syria Ali Al-Zaatari said in a statement.
"We are also conducting an emergency vaccination campaign to protect some 10,000 children against measles, polio and other deadly diseases."
More than 70 trucks would ferry in over 10,000 food parcels and bags of flour, as well as clothes for 18,000 children, the Red Crescent said.
The aid would also include newborn baby kits for 1,200 children, medicines, medical supplies and nutritional supplements for children and women, it said.
It was the first aid convoy to arrive in Rukban from Damascus, after the last delivery from Jordan in January.
"This is SARC's first convoy to Rukban camp after guarantees from all parties have been obtained," SARC president Khaled Hboubati also said in a statement.
Conditions since the last aid arrived have deteriorated, with most inhabitants unable to afford what little food is smuggled across the Jordanian border, and no health facilities in the camp.
Abu Karim, a camp resident, welcomed the fresh assistance but insisted it should be regular to have a lasting effect.
"The aid arriving has provided some relief to the displaced, but if it then stops and does not continue on a regular basis, the camp will return to its bad state," he said.
He pointed to the lack of healthcare for the displaced as winter draws close.
"The aid entering will solve the food crisis in the camp, but there's still the health issue," he told AFP via a messaging app.
"There's great suffering as we have no doctors, hospitals or even field hospitals or a place for first aid."
To access a basic clinic, residents have to cross into Jordan – through a border that has been largely closed since 2016.
Last month, a girl of 4 months died of blood poisoning and dehydration, and a 5-day-old boy lost his life to blood poisoning and severe malnutrition, according to the UN's children agency UNICEF.
A suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group in June 2016 killed seven Jordanian soldiers in no-man's-land close to the nearby Rukban crossing.
Soon afterwards, the army declared Jordan's desert regions that stretch northeast to Syria and east to Iraq "closed military zones."
The kingdom, part of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, has allowed several humanitarian aid deliveries to the area following UN requests, but the borders remain closed.
The camp, home to displaced people from across Syria, also lies close to the Al-Tanf base used by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.
Syria's civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011. – Rappler.com