Syrian refugees 'relieved' as Jordan resumes water delivery to al-Rukban

By Abada Salameh in Amman

Syrian refugees wait in line to receive water from tankers in al-Rukban camp. [Photo courtesy of the Tribal Council of Palmyra and Syrian Badia Facebook page]

Syrian refugees wait in line to receive water from tankers in al-Rukban camp. [Photo courtesy of the Tribal Council of Palmyra and Syrian Badia Facebook page]

Syrian refugees stuck at the al-Rukban border crossing between Jordan and Syria expressed relief over Jordan's resumption of the water supply to the camp, even as they called for increased aid.

Jordan had closed the area and declared it a military zone in the wake of an "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) suicide attack June 21st that killed seven Jordanian soldiers and injured 13 others at a military outpost near the camp.

The kingdom resumed the supply of water in early July, according to authorities and refugees residing in the camp.

A UNICEF official who requested to remain anonymous told the Jordan Times that the camp was being supplied with water in co-operation with the Jordanian authorities, and that the water supply would continue.

Each refugee receives five to six litres of water per day, the official said.

The makeshift camp, which hosts about 85,000 Syrian refugees who mostly hail from Deir Ezzor, al-Raqa and al-Hasakeh, lies in the arid buffer zone between Jordan and Syria.

Camp conditions 'very difficult'

Mohsen Abdullah, a Syrian refugee who lives in the camp with his wife and four children, said that because of the interruption in water supply, many refugees were forced to flee back into Syrian territory.

But with the resumption of water supply, the number of refugees leaving the camp dropped, he said.

"We thank Jordan, however the amount of water we are receiving is not sufficient because the number of refugees in the camp is very high," he told Al-Mashareq.

"We ask the international community and Jordan to increase the amount of water, as conditions in the camp are very difficult," he said.

Mohammed Bilal, another Syrian refugee who lives in the camp with three of his children and other relatives, said conditions in the camp are difficult, but returning to Syria is not an option at this time.

"The roads are unsafe if we want to return to Syria," he told Al-Mashareq. "There is much apprehension about a return to Syria in light of the current situation. We are hoping to enter Jordan after being displaced from our homes."

Bilal said some refugees were forced to drink water from nearby springs to make up for the deficit in the water supply.

"We were relieved when Jordan resumed supplying us with water," he said, calling on authorities to increase the supply "as we are in a desert area and the heat is oppressive".

"We need larger amounts of water to improve the level of hygiene in the camp," he said, adding that they also need more food and medical supplies.

Work of aid organisations

Refugees at al-Rukban are currently supplied daily with 6-12 water tankers, or 6 cubic litres of water, an aid worker with Relief International in Jordan told Al-Mashareq.

The aid worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said the amount of water supplied to the camp will soon increase, and Jordan plans to supply refugees with food aid for one month until a solution for the regular supply of aid is found.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said in late June that responsibility for the Syrian refugees along his country's northern border lies not only on Jordan's shoulders, but on the international community as a whole.

"International organisations must to find a way to help them," al-Momani said in response to Amnesty International's demands that Jordan allow Syrian refugees to enter the kingdom.

"Jordan will work and co-operate with these organisations, but Jordan's security and stability is above all else," he said.

Some 657,433 Syrian refugees have registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan.

Of those, 516,078 live in towns and cities across the country while the remainder live in refugee camps, the official spokesman for UNHCR in Jordan Muhammed al-Hawari said.

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