Biggest ever UN aid delivery reaches desperate civilians in Syria

It is the second time the UN was able to reach the camp of Rukban from within Syria.

FILE - This file picture taken Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, shows an overview of the informal Rukban camp, between the Jordan and Syria borders. The United Nations’ children agency says on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 that two children have died in a desert camp for displaced people along the Syria-Jordan border. The agency says a 5-day-old boy and a 4-month-old girl died in the squalid Rukban camp, which houses over 40,000 people. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh, File)
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The biggest UN humanitarian convoy yet to operate inside Syria successfully distributed aid to 40,000 people in a hard-to-access desert camp near the country’s southern border with Jordan, the organisation announced on Friday.

The delivery, which was completed on Thurdsay, marked the second time the UN was able to reach the camp of Rukban from within Syria. At least eight children had recently died, and some women have had to resort to “survival sex” just to stay alive.

Jens Laerke, a spokesperson from the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), highlighted

"It was a complex, large-scale aid operation, it's the biggest ever carried out by the United Nations in Syria," he said, adding that it was carried out with UN partner the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

“The mission lasted nine days, it consisted of 133 trucks in total, 118 loaded with relief supplies and 15 carrying logistics support,” he said. “With more than 300 staff, volunteers and commercial suppliers that took part. It took more than two months of advocacy and negotiations with all parties to ensure safe access.”

Rukban is located around 300 kilometres from the capital Damascus and is one of the last remaining remote and hard to reach locations. While its people are in dire need of regular aid from the UN and partners, supply routes are often blocked. Families lack firewood and “end up collecting garbage and plastic to make a fire to cook and keep warm”, spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel said in a statement.

Prices of the limited food and non-food items “are exponentially high”, the UN food agency added.

UNICEF also highlighted the deadly cost of a lack of basic medical care in Rukban.

Since December last year, at least eight children - most of them newborns - died in the camp due freezing temperatures and lack of medical care.

Thirty of the convoy’s 118 trucks were loaded with the agency’s life-saving supplies for children.

This included health and nutrition supplies for around 20,000 children and mothers, hygiene kits for more than 40,000 people, recreational kits, school books, stationery and school bags for more than 8,000 children.

After almost eight years of war in Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions have been displaced inside and outside the country.