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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 November 2018

Displaced Syrians trapped in Al Rukban border camp are facing starvation

Residents describe the camp as an 'old man on his death bed'

Overview of Al Rukban camp, between the Jordan and Syria borders. AP
Overview of Al Rukban camp, between the Jordan and Syria borders. AP

Internally displaced Syrians stranded in a desolate area near the Jordanian and Iraqi frontier have been without access to food and humanitarian supplies for nine months, according to residents.

Civilians have been trapped inside Al Rukban camp since Jordan closed its border with Syria following an attack on its soldiers by ISIS in 2016. Aid has been blocked from reaching Al Rukban refugee camp where some 65,000 people have found refuge from the ongoing war.

"Women and children are dying of extreme hunger and disease, as dozens are dying day by day," Khalid Al Ali, a resident inside the camp told The National.

UNHCR declined to provide a comment to The National on the situation, citing the sensitivity of the matter. The move prompted Syrian activists to launch a campaign called "triangle of death" to addresses the camp's dire conditions.

"The humanitarian situation is deteriorating day by day, it's catastrophic, and can be described as an a old man on his death bed," Mr Al Ali said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week that Syrian government forces have cut off roads used for aid deliveries to Rukban.

The war-monitoring group says the blockade came after the failure of a rebel group to evacuate the camp, according to a deal reached earlier.

"History will not be able to forgive those that allow our tents to become our graves," Mr Al Ali stressed, adding that civilians are living in houses that are made out of plastic and mud, with little access to adequate medical services.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) warned on Tuesday of a humanitarian catastrophe if aid does not reach the camp.

Last week, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that two children have died due to a lack of medical care.

The agency urged the international community to "allow and facilitate" humanitarian access to the camp to protect the lives of thousands of children living there.

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The UN children's agency said it has a clinic in Jordan near the border but that more sophisticated health care services are needed.

"Four people have died during the last 72 hours, including a 20-year-old girl who suffered from anemia. The doctors inside the camp gave her the authority to be treated in the UNICEF medical clinic that is located on the Jordanian side, however she was denied entry and died on her way back to the camp," Mr Al Ali said.

The camp is located on a site that is controlled by tribal militias, US forces and the Free Syrian Army.

It lies within a 55 kilometre so-called 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 Syrian opposition called on the international community to pressure President Bashar Al Assad to end the blockade on the camp.

"This responsibility lays completely on the UN and all the internationals with military presence in the areas surrounding the camp," opposition member, Hadi Al Bahara said on Twitter.