Water line to camp in no-man’s land fails, ‘families in total despair’

Residents of a refugee camp along the Syrian-Jordanian border must now walk up to seven kilometers to get drinking water after a Jordanian-run water line supplying the camp malfunctioned last week, sources on the ground tell Syria Direct.

The pumps that pull water into the camp failed last Friday. It was not immediately clear why the pumps stopped working.

The Rukban camp, located in the demilitarized no-man’s land between the Syrian-Jordanian border, relies on two Jordanian-built water lines that supply the camp’s 75,000 residents with drinking water.

The main line previously fed directly into the camp with a distribution station just “meters” from residents’ tents, camp administrator Muayyid al-Abeed tells Syria Direct’s Bahira al-Zarier.

The closer line will require at least “three weeks” to repair, says al-Abeed.

 Displaced Syrians crowd around water tank in Rukban camp on June 21. Photo courtesy of Abu Aisha.

For now, residents have to walk in the open, scorching desert simply to get a drink, and then transport the water they need back with them.

Without a nearby source of water, the situation for displaced Syrians living in Rukban has become “disastrous,” 22-year-old Abu Aisha tells Syria Direct.

“We’re living in the desert under direct sunlight—we can’t walk that far to get a gallon of water,” says Abu Aisha.

 

Abu Aisha, 22, a father of one from al-Qariatayn in eastern Homs province. He has been in Rukban for one year and three months.

Q: Tell us about the difficulties you face getting water in Rukban camp. How are you and your family getting by?

When the pump stopped, it changed life in Rukban.

The line was just meters from the camp, but now the nearest water line is more than six kilometers away from us.

The situation has become disastrous. We’re in the middle of the summer, and we drink a lot of water. It’s Ramadan and we’re living in the desert under direct sunlight—we can’t walk that far to get a gallon of water.

I’ve walked before to fill up containers, but it’s difficult due to the huge numbers of people waiting their turn.

Containers of water are being sold in the camp, but they’re very expensive. Every day I need about 70 liters of water, but the price for just 20 liters of water is SP400, and I don’t have a stable income [to afford it.]

Q: What options do you have as a resident of the Rukban camp?

Our options are very limited. There are families in total despair who’ve decided to leave the camp, off into the unknown.

Others have hope, and decided to stay in Rukban. I’m one of them. I don’t have the money to leave for somewhere else, and I have to buy drinking water, even if it’s expensive.

It’s challenging—we don’t have any other choice except to wait for water to come back.

**

Muayyid al-Abeed, the head administrator of Rukban camp.

Q: Numerous news outlets have reported that water has been cut off inside Rukban. Is this true?

Rukban has water, and it has neither been cut off nor reduced in quantity.

The Jordanian government built two water lines to Rukban. The first fed to tanks about 300 meters from the tents and homes of residents. The second line was built about 7km from the border, inside Syrian territory.

The first line is now out of service, requiring [at least] three weeks to repair. For the time being, all the water is being transferred to the second line.

The main issue is that the second line is far from the homes of camp residents. Water must be moved via containers and tanks to the camp itself, with residents footing the heavy costs.

Previously, water was freely available. Any resident could come and fill a container with water as they needed. Now, filling up containers happens under the supervision of Jaish Ahrar al-Ashair, the security force controlling the camp.

Q: What is the camp administration doing to repair the situation?

As the administration of the camp, we are renting containers for residents to move water from the second line to the camp. We’re solving the problem by using these containers. We also sell containers of water to camp residents.

The solution to the problem will come with repairing the water line and we have met with the Jordanian border guardes and presented our complaints. 

Bahira al-Zarier

Bahira is from Damascus. She studied business and marketing before moving to Jordan in 2013. She did volunteer work in support of many refugee organizations before joining Syria Direct.

Mohammad Ali

Originally from Latakia, Mohammad moved to Jordan in 2012. He completed a BA in Business Management in 2012. He previously volunteered with non-profit organizations in Jordan.

Justin Clark

Justin studied Arabic at Western Michigan University. He continued his studies at Bethlehem University in the West Bank and the Qasid Institute in Jordan. Justin's work and studies have taken him to Jordan, the West Bank, Egypt and Greece.