Al-Rukban IDP camp in southern Syria without water as heat wave intensifies

Al-Rukban IDP camp in southern Syria without water as heat wave intensifies
The camp's water shortage entered its second month on Monday.
2 min read
25 July, 2022
Al-Rukban receives its water from Jordan via a UNICEF operated project. [Getty]

Al-Rukban, a refugee camp of about 11,000 people in the no man's land between Syria and Jordan, entered its second month of a water crisis on Monday, residents said.

Ahmad, a resident of al-Rukban speaking under a pseudonym for security reasons, told The New Arab that both the quality and quantity of water supplied to the camp began to decline two months ago.

"The water isn't even enough for a third of the camp. Gun battles have started more than once between people trying to get water," Ahmad said. He added that his son had been sleeping next to the pipes which deliver water to the camp for the past few days so that he can ensure he is present when it starts flowing again.

The water shortage occurs as the Middle East and North African region experience soaring summer temperatures. Al-Rukban is located in a barren desert and does not have proper housing or widespread access to electricity.

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Al-Rukban receives its water from a well operated by UNICEF on the Jordanian side of the border. Since 2018, Jordan has not allowed any aid to be transported to the camp from its territory – with the sole exception of the water piped in by UNICEF.

"The pumping time of the pipeline was reduced from six to two hours per day, causing the current shortage," Simone Jeger, an independent humanitarian who focuses on al-Rukban, told The New Arab.

The water shortage has endangered the camp's agricultural projects. Many residents maintain small farm plots by their homes in order to grow food such as cucumbers, eggplants and tomatoes for subsistence.

Hunger is a consistent problem in the camp, as Syrian regime soldiers prevent goods from entering the camp and Jordan refuses to allow aid in from its side. The camp has not received an aid shipment in three years.

Humanitarians have argued that the US, which controls the 55-km area in which al-Rukban sits, should aid the camp residents as the de-facto controlling power in the area. The US, by contrast, argues that the responsibility lies with Damascus.

Despite poor living conditions and a virtual lack of medical treatment, most camp residents refuse to leave. They are fearful that they would face arrest or torture by regime forces should they return to regime-held territory.

The Syrian Association for Citizens' Dignity (SACD) has documented at least 174 arrests of people who returned from al-Rukban to regime-held territory.