Conditions in a makeshift Syrian camp near the border with Jordan are “increasingly desperate” and “have become a matter of life and death”, United Nations officials warned today, after at least eight children died there from extreme cold and a lack of medical care.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel echoed a warning from UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that children only months old are succumbing to the harsh winter conditions in the Rukban settlement at the south-western border of Syria with Jordan, which last received aid in November.
“The United Nations remains seriously concerned about the increasingly desperate conditions for more than 40,000 people staying at the Rukban site” he said. “The majority are women and children, who have been staying at the site for more than two years in harsh conditions with limited humanitarian assistance, access to medical care and other essential services.”
Amid security concerns, Jordan closed its border with Syria at Rukban as tens of thousands of Syrians arrived at the camp, fleeing expanded Russian and United States-led coalition air strikes against areas held by Islamic State of Iraq and the levant (ISIL) terrorists in central and eastern Syria.
The plight of those stranded in Rukban dates is not new, but the harsh winter and lack of regular supplies have made the situation much worse, according to UNICEF’s Geert Cappelaere, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Needs for assistance in Rukban are beyond urgent,” he said in a statement. “They are extremely acute and have become a matter of life and death.”
Mr. Cappelaere stressed: “Once again, UNICEF calls on all sides to urgently facilitate a humanitarian convoy to Rukban, including mobile health clinics, so that lifesaving supplies and services can be delivered.”
In eastern Syria, meanwhile, heavy violence in the Hajin area of Deir-Ez-Zor Governorate has displaced 10,000 people since December, the UNICEF official warned. “Families seeking safety face difficulties leaving the conflict zone and wait in the cold for days without shelter or basic supplies,” he said. “The dangerous and difficult journey has reportedly killed seven children, most of them under a year old.”