A convoy of relief supplies for 45,000 Syrians trapped between the closed Jordanian border and Syrian government frontlines did not arrive on Thursday as planned, a UN spokesperson told IRIN. But even if it had, civilians in the isolated no-man’s land camp of Rukban would largely continue to remain cut off from aid, commercial shipments of food, and medical care, in an area where officials and health workers say hunger, disease, and sexual abuse are on the rise.
While the UN no longer lists any part of Syria as besieged and classifies Rukban as hard-to-reach, a senior aid official familiar with the camp told IRIN that the situation there has never been as bad as now.
It’s hell, that person added. It’s very hard to put words on it. A senior official with another aid organization said the camp, which began forming in late 2014 after Jordan closed its border to most asylum seekers, is de facto besieged. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve sensitive working relationships.
Iolanda Jaquemet, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told IRIN that prices of basic commodities inside the camp are skyrocketing, food supplies precarious, and reportedly deaths are rising due to the living conditions and lack of health care.
The UN’s humanitarian negotiator for Syria, Jan Egeland, confirmed earlier this month that a trickle of trade that had kept the informal camp supplied from the Syrian side had been cut off, making it one of the most desperate places in Syria. Aid workers say the reduced commercial trade with the rest of Syria has increased tension and cut food supplies.
Activists charge that the trade blockade is a deliberate move by the Bashar al-Assad government. Laila Kiki, executive director of advocacy group The Syria Campaign, said Rukban has been under siege by the regime for months.
A UN World Food Programme spokesperson, Herve Verhoosel, said Friday that the convoy had not started but that efforts continue to get it on the road.