•  SyriaUK  •  info@syriauk.org  •  www.facebook.com/SyriaUKorg  •  @SyriaUK

Monthly Archive

Search Syria Solidarity UK

Sunday 26 April 2020

Covid-19 threat to Rukban camp civilians: Letter to UK Government

The imminent threat of Covid-19 outbreak and urgent medical evacuation – Rukban camp

The Rt Hon James Cleverly, Minister of State for Middle East and Africa
David Ashley, Head of Syria Unit, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We are writing to you to express thanks for your help with facilitating the safe delivery of the two pregnant women last month. The women and their babies are healthy and well, and one of the babies has been named after one of the activists who helped raise concerns about the dangerous situation these mothers were in. The camp, however, remains with no access to healthcare services and we have grave concern over the lack of preparation for a Covid-19 outbreak in the Rukban camp.

Since the closure of the Jordan Syria border in February, residents have had no access to healthcare services at all. I would like to highlight that currently there is an urgent case of a 4-month-old boy at high risk of renal failure due to a congenital anomaly of his renal system. He has urinary opening in the abdomen and suffers with dehydration due to lack of feeding, he has stopped nursing and formula milk is scarce. He is at risk of dying from dehydration and renal failure within days. This infant needs urgent medical evacuation as his condition is critical. His family are unable to return to regime areas due to risk of being detained. There are other cases in the camp of chronic health conditions – these people will be at high risk of suffering strokes and heart attacks as they do not receive regular monitoring or medications. They are unable to return to regime areas as that puts them at risk of detention and torture. It is well-documented that residents who have left in the past have been forcibly disappeared by the regime.

Multiple human rights and humanitarian aid organisations have condemned the situation in Rukban camp; a woman and three children have died in the past 18 months due to lack of access to medical care. It has been predicted that an outbreak of Covid- 19 in refugee camps – and these are usually much better equipped than the Rukban camp - will have devastating effects and much higher mortality rates than in other settings.

The UK government’s involvement in Tanf, its position in the Coalition, and its close relationship with both the Jordanian and United states governments, not only give the opportunity to act but make the duty to act inescapable.

We therefore ask as a matter of urgency to:
  • Ensure that Covid-19 outbreak preparations for the Rukban camp, including testing arrangements, are coordinated without requiring residents to leave the de-escalation zone putting them at risk of detention by the regime.
  • Arrange for an urgent medical evacuation for the infant mentioned above.
  • Arrange for primary healthcare services and medication supplies for residents with chronic health conditions.

Please act with the highest levels of urgency to prevent avoidable deaths in Rukban camp.

Dr Batool Abdulkareem, Syria Solidarity UK
Bronwen Griffiths, Syria Solidarity UK
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, Doctors Under Fire


Rukban camp: A case study in reviewing the UK’s protection of civilians strategy
By Dr Kate Ferguson, Protection Approaches, June 2019.

The UK is complicit in a crime against humanity at Rukban camp
Syria Solidarity UK report, April 2019.