UN says Syria must keep word on Rukban convoy
Winter cold has added to distress of families in camp on Jordan’s border
The UN’s humanitarian aid chief on Wednesday appealed to Syria and Russia to ensure an aid convoy can reach civilians in Rukban refugee camp, citing the death of eight children there in the past month.
The camp is home to 42,000 people stranded there because Jordan has refused to open its border to Syria because ISIS militants attacked its soldiers in the area in 2016.
Mark Lowcock, the UN’s humanitarian aid coordinator, said in a briefing to the Security Council that the Syrian government and Russian authorities had given verbal approval for a convoy to be ready for movement by February 5.
But his comments come after numerous incidents where UN teams and officials have been blocked from delivering aid.
“Eight infants have reportedly died since last month. The cold is making the situation even worse. It is critical that the parties support a second convoy to Rukban,” Mr Lowcock said in New York.
A first UN delivery of aid to the Rukban camp was in November last year.
The planned second convoy of more than 100 trucks with food, winter supplies, basic household goods and basic sanitation support would be ready to depart its base by February 5, with the aim that UN staff can stay in Rukban for one week to ensure effective distribution.
It has been agreed that there will be a 5km buffer zone between armed groups in the area and the convoy, Mr Lowcock told the Council.
“On January 27 we received verbal approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Damascus for the convoy to proceed. Security guarantees have also been received from the Russian Federation and International Coalition Forces,” he said
, noting that plans were in place for the trucks to be loaded by the end of this week.
“We call on all parties to ensure that this goes ahead without any further delay,” he added.
Jordan has said that the Rukban camp is harbouring ISIS fighters and insists that it should be dismantled. The UN team plans to conduct a study on what can be done there during the week of the planned aid delivery.
Updated: January 30, 2019 11:49 PM