A United Nations aid convoy arrived at the Rukban Refugee Camp on Saturday, marking the first time since January that aid has been delivered to some 50,000 Syrians.
After repeated delays, a United Nations aid convoy carrying food, medicine, medical supplies and sanitary supplies entered the Rukban Refugee Camp where some 50,000 Syrians live in ever-deteriorating conditions. The convoy arrived at the camp on Saturday and is expected to distribute its supplies over the course of four days.
The arrival of the aid convoy brings much-needed but albeit temporary relief for the people here who have been the subject of a blame-game between Washington, Moscow, Damascus and Amman. The camp is located in the Syrian Desert/Badiya al-Sham and borders the Jordanian border. Many of the inhabitants are from Homs, particularly the city of Palmyra, and escaped to Rukban during the ISIS offensive across Homs and Deir ez-Zour, as well as the subsequent battles and airstrikes that took place across these provinces. Despite the inhospitable desert conditions, the camp grew steadily.
For much of the camp’s duration, aid was delivered from Jordan. In 2016, increased ISIS presence along the border and attacks on Jordanian Army personnel led to the tightening of the border and reduction of aid deliveries. The last aid from Jordan was delivered in January after which an ISIS attack that killed 7 Jordanian soldiers pushed Amman to seal the border completely, forcing aid organisations to rely on Damascus. This itself proved problematic, as the area around Rukban remains under the control of the Maghawir al-Thawra rebel group and a small number of International Coalition forces. Previously, any attempts by loyalists to push towards Rukban resulted in intense clashes. Damascus found it expedient to delay aid deliveries while tightening supply routes.
Through it all, the conditions in the camp deteriorated. In addition to diminishing supplies, the residents of the camp have been subject to harsh sandstorms on a regular basis, all the while being stuck in a political limbo, seemingly with no end. Their protestations over the state of their lives prompted the UN to pressure Damascus to grant the convoy a permit. Although the convoy did suffer delays, insiders report that Washington and Moscow were able to facilitate the delivery.
Although a temporary fix, the delivery of the aid is nevertheless a cause for optimism, highlighting that there is scope for a resolution in this man-made humanitarian crisis. One can hope that such resolution can be reached sooner than later.