Baby born in besieged Syrian refugee camp 'close to death' as appeals for treatment are ignored

Baby born in besieged Syrian refugee camp 'close to death' as appeals for treatment are ignored
Activists in the besieged Rukban refugee camp on the Jordan-Syria border have warned that a baby born with a serious throat defect four weeks ago is in danger of death as the US embassy in Jordan failed to respond to calls to evacuate her.
4 min read
10 March, 2022
The Rukban refugee camp on the Syrian-Jordan border is besieged by regime forces [Getty]

Residents of the besieged Rukban camp, on the Jordan-Syria border, appealed for a four-week-old baby born with a serious throat defect to be immediately evacuated for medical treatment amid a serious deterioration in her condition.

The baby girl, Yaqeen Al-Akeel, was born four weeks ago with a hole in her throat at Rukban, which lacks basic medical facilities. Human rights groups have warned of an "unprecedented" catastrophe at the camp.

Two weeks ago, Yaqeen's family told The New Arab that the baby girl needed an operation to save her life and a medical source told The New Arab's sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Yaqeen was now in more danger.

"The family tried to take her to a neighbouring country to do an operation, but until now they have received no response, and she is in more danger of death with every passing day," the source said.

The Rukban camp is located in the Syrian Desert on the border with Jordan and is surrounded by Syrian regime forces on three sides.

It also lies near the Tanf military base, where US-led forces from the international coalition against IS are present. US-backed Syrian rebels are also around the camp.

Jordan has closed its border to camp residents, citing Covid-19 as the reason, also shutting down the only properly equipped clinic serving the camp's more than 6,000 residents.

The Syrian regime and its ally Russia previously said that the camp residents - many of whom are residents of Homs and other Syrian cities who took part in the 2011 protests against President Bashar Al-Assad's rule - could return to their homes in regime-held areas of Syria. Returning refugees have been previously detained after doing so.

Yaqeen's family previously told The New Arab that treatment in regime-held areas was not an option because her father had been a member of the opposition Free Syrian Army.

Mustafa Abu Shams, the head of a network of media activists specialised in news from the Rukban Camp, told The New Arab that its residents were currently only able to access rudimentary medical treatment at two nearby clinics.

US ignores treatment appeals

He said that there were no doctors at the clinics, only nurses and volunteers who did not even have recognised medical training, and a very limited supply of medical equipment.

Commenting on Yaqeen's case he said: "There is no equipment which can treat her case or perform the operation [she needs]."

He added that US forces at the nearby Tanf base only provide assistance to the refugees at the camp on rare occasions.

 "We have been following the case of baby Yaqeen since the beginning. Her family have knocked on the doors of everyone they know, without any success. Her case has been brought to the US Embassy with an appeal to transport her to Jordan, but there has been no response yet," he said.

Abu Shams said that Yaqeen had been born with a deformed tongue as well as a hole in her throat. He said that while she had had a small operation on her tongue, the hole in her throat remained. As a result her oxygen levels were dangerously low, and she was unable to eat or drink and had to be fed intravenously.

The New Arab contacted the US embassy in Jordan but the embassy declined to comment on Yaqeen's case.

The London-based Syrian Human Rights Committee warned in a statement on Tuesday that conditions in the Rukban camp as a whole were deteriorating quickly, raising the possibility of an "unprecedented" catastrophe, with residents unable to access food supplies, water, or medicine, amid a regime siege and a refusal by US forces in Tanf and Jordanian authorities across the border to provide assistance.

It called on the international community to provide assistance to camp residents urgently and to allow them safe passage to areas where they would be secure.