At least 15 people, including two babies, have died in Al-Rukban refugee camp over the past two weeks, following a tightening of the siege implemented by the Syrian regime on the region bordering Jordan.
The Al-Rukban camp, which lies along the demilitarised area between Jordan and Syria, has been inhabited by some 75,000 Syrian refugees since 2014, most of whom originate from rural Homs, Hama and Damascus. The camp is run by a local civil council, tribal leaders and civic humanitarian groups.
But since June of this year, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has implemented a suffocating siege on the camp, preventing the entry of all medical or food items. Last week, US-backed Syrian opposition groups that operate in neighbouring territories, confirmed that the regime had tightened the blockade further by closing all roads leading to the area.
The Jordanian border, which has been shut since 2015, has additionally prohibited the transfer of any humanitarian aid, with Jordanian officials even refusing entry permits for sick people.
The blockade has had a severe impact on Syrians’ access to healthcare. Two babies have already died this week due to a lack of adequate healthcare, a boy identified as Manaf Diyaa Al Hamoud, and four month-old Huda Raslan.
According to administrative staff member at Cham Medical Centre Yazan Mahmoud, UNICEF’s medical point has also been closed for the past two weeks, resulting in the deaths of four people due to the inability of emergency staff to treat them.
Whilst the Cham Medical Centre offers some types of treatment for displaced families, it suffers from a severe shortage of equipment and medicines needed to treat many of the refugees in the camp.
The residents of Al-Rukban are also suffering from famine due to lack of food supplies. In 2017, the UN was able to deliver humanitarian aid to the camps only twice; so far this year, Jordan permitted the entry of aid vehicles only once.
Yesterday, the Syrian Response Coordination Group which operates in the camp issued an appeal for the international community to put pressure on the Syrian regime to end the blockade and for the Jordanian government to open the borders. They stated that the siege on the civilian population constituted a war crime, and was a tactic used by the Assad government to force those in the camps to return to areas recaptured by the regime.
Whilst hundreds have been driven back into Syria due to the humanitarian crisis in the camp over the past few months, many have refused the offer due to fear of arrest and torture by the regime upon their return.
Earlier this week, the Jordanian government stated that it did not have a specific date for the reopening of its border with Syria, reiterating that its crossings were closed to all goods and people. The comments contradicted statements made by the Syrian transportation minister last week who had stipulated that the border would be opened by today.