Photo credits: Patrick Shepherd, RedR Australia
26 Sep 2019
Delivering critical humanitarian aid to Rukban, Syria

According to UN reports, since 2015, tens of thousands of refugees have fled to Rukban - a remote settlement located in south-east Syria, on the border with Jordan - escaping Syria’s civil war. In 2018, aid supplies from Jordan were cut off, leaving no regular food or medical supplies delivered to the Rukban community.

Through the Australian Government’s Australia Assists program, RedR Australia deployed Civil-Military Coordination Specialist, John Kargotich, to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Jordan, where he is working to facilitate humanitarian response in the settlement, located in a military zone.

In particular, John has been instrumental in the coordination of convoys delivering critical humanitarian aid to the affected population. Supported by John and his UN colleagues from the Jordanian side, the cross-line convoys consisted of 20 light vehicles and 100 trucks travelling from the Syrian capital to the settlement.

“Recently, we facilitated two convoys between Damascus and Rukban carrying life-saving food, non-food items and health supplies for the community. What this meant was humanitarian aid was delivered to 45,000 people who had not had any significant access to aid or services for at least nearly five months,” said John.

John and the OCHA Rukban team were shortlisted for the 2018 OCHA Award of Excellence in June 2019, an award which recognises individuals and teams who have made significant contributions to OCHA's work and mandate,

The convoys also permitted the access of a Syrian health team to Rukban who provided vaccinations for children, assessed the general health needs of the population, and provided other basic health services.

In addition, John and his team have been working to ensure the servicing of the United Nations Health Clinic serving the affected population. Patients from Rukban travel two kilometres over the border to the health centre in Jordan for treatment.

“The health clinic is situated in a military zone on the Jordanian side, and is servicing Syrian internally displaced people coming from Rukban. Because of the various concerns on both sides of the border, the clinic requires coordination between humanitarians, military entities and the government to permit its servicing,” said John.

Photo credit: Patrick Shepherd, RedR Australia

With significant humanitarian assistance still required in the Rukban settlement, John is scheduled to continue in his role until February 2020.

 “The civil-military coordination function is an important one as we deal with many different stakeholders in the response environment,” said John.

“It is very much about building relationships so that we can provide a bridge between the government, military, humanitarian agencies and community-based groups to facilitate access, so the affected population can be serviced properly. It’s not over yet and there’s still a great deal of need and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”

John with maternal health workers who work in the United Nations Health Clinic. Photo credit: Patrick Shepherd