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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Rukban residents running out of food days after UN aid delivery 

Syrians stranded in desert camp say the situation requires more than one relief shipment

Residents of the Rukban refugee camp gather for the distribution of relief supplies. AP Photo
Residents of the Rukban refugee camp gather for the distribution of relief supplies. AP Photo

Emad Ahmed's family is running out of food, just one week after the UN delivered aid to them and more than 50,000 other Syrian refugees in the Rukban camp on the border with Jordan.

The UN delivery of food, sanitation, hygiene and health supplies to the camp, whose residents are trapped inside an area under rebel control, came after months of negotiations with the Syrian regime. The camp had received no aid since January.

"The situation inside the camp is still devastating even after the delivery of relief; we are running out of supplies," Mr Ahmed told The National.

He said the supplies received were only enough for six days for a family of five.

Aid workers who entered the camp described the conditions as dire, with many people surviving on just one meal a day.

“Despite the successful completion of this convoy and the delivery of essential food and non-food items, the situation for the people of Rukban remains dire and remains unsustainable,” Ali Al Zatari, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Syria said on Sunday.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent also took part in the aid delivery and vaccinated 10,000 children against measles, polio and other diseases.

But Mr Ahmed said people in the camp were on the brink of starvation and needed regular deliveries of aid. "This shipment is seen as a way to keep us live, just for the time being."

Desperate residents were looking for ways to get out of Rukban, he said.

“Both the Jordanian and Syrian governments have closed ways in and out of the camp. We have nowhere to go, we are literally dying inside.”

The camp lies within a 55-kilometre so-called de-confliction zone set up by the Pentagon with the aim of blocking Iranian supply routes through area into Syria, and preventing pro-regime forces from operating there.

Jordan suspects the camp to be infiltrated by ISIS sleeper cells and closed its border crossing after a deadly attack there by the extremists in 2016.

Last Thursday, Jordan said it was in talks with the US and Russia to empty the camp, seen as a move to defuse security tensions.

Jordan's foreign ministry said the kingdom backed a Russian plan to arrange the voluntary return of Rukban resident to their homes in areas of eastern Syria that have been recaptured from ISIS by Syrian government forces.

"Jordanian-US-Russian talks have begun with the aim of finding a fundamental solution to Rukban by ensuring the right conditions of their voluntary return to their cities and towns," Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al Qatarneh said.

Yet, Mr Ahmed says that many residents are not ready to go back to homes in state-held areas for fear of being conscripted into the Syrian army.

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Read more:

First aid since January reaches displaced Syrians near Jordan border: UN

Displaced Syrians trapped in Al Rukban border camp are facing starvation

A critical moment to ensure more lives are not needlessly lost

Syrian regime militias clash in Aleppo

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