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Jordan blocks UN aid to Syria's Rukban refugee camp over coronavirus concerns

Food and medicine imports to the besieged Al-Rukban camp have been near impossible [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 April, 2020

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Citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, Amman refused to allow the United Nations to pass through Jordanian territory to deliver much-needed aid to Syria's Rukban refugee camp.
Jordan on Tuesday announced it would not allow the United Nations to pass through its territory to deliver aid to Syria's besieged Rukban refugee camp, citing novel coronavirus concerns.

The remote camp, home to around 12,000 displaced people, is located in southeast Syria, near Jordan's northeast border. The Rukban camp has been under siege by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia for over a year, rendering the import of food and medicine near impossible.

Activists have previously urged the UN to provide medical aid to Rukban's inhabitants as they brace for a Covid-19 outbreak. Among Syria's officially reported 39 novel coronavirus cases, none have yet been confirmed in the camp.

Amman's announcement comes after King Abdullah II's pledge on Monday to send medical equipment and doctors to the United States to help Washington battle the novel coronavirus.

During a call with UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen, Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Al-Safadi said any humanitarian or medical aid needed by the Rukban camp must come from within Syria, according to a statement by Jordan's foreign ministry.

"[Al-Safadi] affirmed that Jordan will not allow any aid to enter through its lands or any person to enter the kingdom's territory for any reason, and that protecting [Jordan's] citizens from the coronavirus is a priority," the statement read.

Al-Safadi also urged the international community to "continue assuming its responsibilities" towards Syrian refugees.

The ministry added both sides agreed to continued "coordination and consultation" regarding the Syrian crisis and Jordan's Syrian refugee population.

Amman previously shut down a UNICEF-run medical centre, where residents of the Al-Rukban camp could receive basic treatment, due to the pandemic.

Activists told The New Arab the closure of the UNICEF medical centre has exacerbated fears about the health of pregnant women residing in the camp, particularly some requiring emergency C-sections.

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