American advocates have created a no-cost pharmacy to help displaced Syrians who have been deprived of medical aid by Assad’s regime. The Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) is a non-profit American organization that has created a supply of free medications and medical supplies for a refugee camp of over 10,000 people. The refugee camp of al-Rukban has not received any United Nations aid deliveries for over a year due to obstruction and blockages perpetrated by Russia and Assad’s regime.
Previously, al-Rukban had access to a health clinic in Jordan run by the UN. This clinic suspended its operations due to the crisis surrounding COVID-19. Al-Rukban is also situated within a deconfliction zone nearby a small garrison of U.S. troops along the road from Damascus to Baghdad. According to Washing-based foreign policy experts on the region, this small American presence deters attacks against the refugee camp, which could occur from either Russia, Assad’s forces, or remaining elements of the Islamic State. The civil war in Syria is still occurring.
During the height of the Syrian crisis, al-Rukban had between 50,000 and 60,000 residents living inside of it. Assad’s regime starved a significant portion of its population as a strategy in its war against its own people. The thousands of remaining people within the camp have remained there in part because they face imprisonment or conscription if they were to leave and return to Assad-controlled territory.
The pharmacy will provide medical supplies for free to those who are in need. SETF will first provide supplies for children and babies. It also plans to stockpile supplies and medical devices for adults, as well as provide telehealth medical services to help with diagnosis in light of COVID-19. Foreign policy analysts in Washington have reported the State Department may attempt to reopen the closed UN clinic in the hope of providing additional relief to the Syrians who are suffering in the region.
Russia and Assad are obligated to allow UN convoys and humanitarian aid into the refugee camp. However, both entities refuse to allow aid into the region. Jordan could also allow UN aid to be delivered through its own territory. However, reports from researchers specializing in the conflict indicate Jordan has already taken over a million Syrian refugees into its territory and is feeling substantial pressure as a result. Jordan has even started deporting Syrian refugees to al-Rukban against their will.
Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s regime should be challenged in the public arena. This challenge should specifically target Russia and Assad’s obstruction of UN aid to al-Rubkan. Sanctions and foreign policy experts at FDD indicate the United States should also apply pressure on Jordan to allow UN convoys through its territory to help provide aid to refugees and to support the re-opening of the nearby clinic which was closed due to COVID-19. Experts on the conflict in Syria suggest the refugee crisis in al-Rukban should be seen by the United States as an opportunity to show American leadership and willingness to help people in the region in light of the suffering perpetrated by Bashar-al-Assad and Russia.