Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Rukban camp: aid workers insist supplies will be fairly distributed among civilians

Tens of thousands of desperate residents receive first assistance in three months

Aid delivered this week to the isolated Syrian refugee camp at Rukban will be distributed fairly among its residents, officials said, after allegations that a previous shipment did not reach some people.

The United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent relief convoy that arrived at the camp near the Jordanian border on Wednesday is the first since early November and the largest sent so far to the estimated 40,000 people living there.

“A convoy of 133 trucks carrying clothes, medical, hygiene and food supplies arrived at the outskirts of the camp and will be circulated equally, free of charge among the residents inside,” a public relations official for the camp told The National.

The distribution is expected to last for a week, according to a UN statement given to The National.

“We desperately need assistance, our situation is getting worse and worse,” Imad Ahmed, a resident of Rukban, told The National.

“There are no words to describe what we are going through especially during the tough winter season. We have no heating, very little supplies of clothes, we will freeze to death,” he said.

The aid is expected to last each family approximately 10 days, he said.

The convoy also carried vaccinations for about 10,000 children under five, educational items and children’s recreational kits as the majority of residents are vulnerable women and children, the UN said.

The supplies were selected based on an assessment of residents' needs made during November's aid delivery, it said, and members of this convoy will carry out another assessment.

Aid workers said civilians received little or none of the supplies from the convoy sent from on November 3 last year.

“The UN received reports from some families in Rukban that they did not receive the full amount of assistance they were entitled to or did not receive assistance at all,” Fadwa Baroud of the office of the UN Resident Coordinator told The National in November.

Tens of thousands of people fled to the camp from ISIS-held parts of Syria over the past three years to escape Russian and US-led coalition air strikes against the militant group.

The UN Resident Coordinator Sajjad Malik said Rukban’s humanitarian situation had been deteriorating, with the harsh winter conditions and lack basic assistance and services leading to many civilian deaths, and ways for them to resume normal lives elsewhere needed to be found.

“This delivery is only a temporary measure. A long-term, safe, voluntary and dignified solution for tens of thousands of people, many of whom have been staying at the Rukban settlement for more than two years in desperate conditions, is urgently needed,” Mr Malik said.

The UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent will carry out a survey of residents's wishes and priorities regarding a lasting solution to their plight.

The Rukban camp now lies inside a “deconfliction zone” set up by the US but Moscow and Damascus accuse Washington of providing a safe haven for rebels and have been pushing for US troops to leave the area.

The US protection has encouraged many residents to remain at the camp rather than return to homes in areas under government control, where they fear retribution from the Syrian army.

Updated: February 7, 2019 06:52 PM

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