Jaundice spreads among Rukban camp children with over 200 cases

A sit-in at Rukban camp - May 6, 2024 (Hesar website)

A sit-in at Rukban camp - May 6, 2024 (Hesar website)

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Jaundice cases, known locally as “Abu Safar”, have spread among the children of Rukban camp amidst the weak healthcare sector in the camp, exacerbating the infections and forcing the displaced to resort to primitive methods of treating their children.

The head of the local council in Rukban camp, Dirbas al-Khalidi, told Enab Baladi, “By observing the children who showed symptoms, it can be estimated that over 200 children have contracted jaundice out of 2,500 children in the camp in the last 15 days.”

He added that the number of infections might be higher because there are children who might be infected but whose symptoms have not clearly appeared yet.

Exact numbers of jaundice infections in the camp are unavailable, as a nurse in Rukban, who requested anonymity, stated that it is impossible to count the cases due to the lack of laboratory analysis.

The nurse added to Enab Baladi that jaundice is diagnosed based on symptoms that appear on the patient, such as yellowing of the eyes and emaciation, changes in urine and stool color, and loss of appetite.

Regime forces and Iranian militias tightened the siege on the Rukban camp and completely prevented the entry of food and medicine through smuggling routes since April 5, exacerbating the plight of the residents and the spread of diseases.

Lack of hygiene exacerbates the disease

Regarding the reasons for the spread of jaundice among the children of Rukban camp, the nurse said that the sewer openings were exposed after the tarpaulins covering them were damaged, causing the spread of foul smells and insects and the flooding of sewage waters around the camp, which was a major factor in the outbreak of jaundice and the transmission of infection among children without control.

Other reasons for the spread of jaundice also include the lack of personal hygiene due to the scarcity of clean water and cleaning supplies under the imposed siege, in addition to children using toilets and then touching their peers in the camp without washing their hands, according to the nurse.

She added that even foods beneficial for hepatitis patients, which is one of the causes of jaundice, such as honey and jams, are missing from the sales shops in the camp market.

The loss of necessary medicines for treating jaundice or the steep rise in their prices when available has further spread the disease.

According to residents met by Enab Baladi, the price of a box of paracetamol reaches 25,000 Syrian pounds, and a box of antibiotics reaches 50,000 pounds, with this medicine missing from the pharmacies in the camp (the dollar equals 14,000 Syrian pounds).

Returning to traditional Arab medicine

Rukban camp lacks basic medical safety after the loss of drugs from medical points and pharmacies in the camp, as well as the absence of specialized medical staff and analysis labs.

There are two medical points in the camp that lack medical equipment and staff, offering only some basic first aid.

The scarcity of medicines and the necessary medical staff has led the residents to turn to herbal medicine as an alternative solution, hoping it would contribute to treating this disease. There is an Arab medicine “doctor” who relies on producing medicines using natural remedies and herbs.

Mohammed al-Jasim, a resident of Rukban, said his son has been suffering from viral hepatitis for about two weeks, and the child’s condition has deteriorated, losing around ten kilograms due to his declining health and the lack of necessary treatment and food.

Al-Jasim added to Enab Baladi, “A drowning man clings to a straw… I resorted to herbal medicine to treat my child, but it did not lead to his recovery,” noting that most of the camp residents turn to herbal medicine to treat their children from jaundice until these herbs run out.

Regarding the necessary solutions to save his child’s life, al-Jasim said, “There is no solution but to transfer him to Jordan or to areas controlled by the regime.”

Al-Jasim took his sick son to the International Coalition’s medical point near the al-Tanf base and requested them to admit him to Jordan or transfer him to another country for treatment, but they refused his request and he returned with his sick child to the camp.

The cost of transferring the child for treatment in areas controlled by the regime is approximately $3,000, an amount he cannot secure at the present time.

Meanwhile, the Hesar (Siege) website, which covers news of Rukban camp, mentioned that some women in the camp resorted to preparing recipes with their own hands to treat their children from jaundice, including preparing a special medicine from vegetables, among them onions and garlic, then extracting the liquid from the vegetables, and dripping it into the sick child’s eyes and nose for three days.

Open sit-in

In light of the siege imposed on Rukban camp, dozens of residents of the camp organized a sit-in on May 6, raising banners demanding the lifting of the siege and the urgent entry of aid, and denouncing the poor humanitarian conditions.

The protesters called on the international community and humanitarian organizations to secure food, medicine, and baby milk, stressing the need to open humanitarian corridors to bring in the necessary medical and food aid to save the lives of children and women. The protest comes in the context of the ongoing sit-in launched by the residents of Rukban camp since the beginning of April, demanding the opening of a safe route towards northern Syria, northeast Syria, or Jordan, as a radical solution to the crisis created by the regime forces intermittently blocking the roads.

Majed al-Qaed, one of the organizers of the sit-in, told Enab Baladi that the camp residents have approached all countries in the world, including the International Coalition Forces, Jordan, and the United Nations with general demands, represented in reopening the borders with Jordan or relocating them to northern Syria.

Ghassan al-Fadil, an activist in the camp, told Enab Baladi that the Syrian regime is tightening its grip on the camp residents and controlling the entry of food and medicine, to pressure the displaced to submit to the de facto conditions for returning to areas it controls, and this poses a danger to the lives of the camp residents, exposing them to arrest whether they are youths, or those associated with the Free Syrian Army or the military factions within the 55-kilometer zone (Al-Tanf base supported by Washington), therefore, “we demand the international community to lift the siege on the stricken camp.”

The numbers of residents in the camp conflict, starting from eight thousand, according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, and match the statistics published by the Voice of Rukban account via the “X” platform, a platform that conveys news from inside the camp.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, mentioned about 12,000 people are still in the camp, considering that “the majority of them are from the Islamic State organization and armed terrorist groups,” according to his statement.

The International Coalition Forces, led by the United States, focus their mission on combating the Islamic State organization and have no relation to the civilians in the camp.

In March 2020, Jordan closed its borders with the Rukban camp, including the medical point, and the Jordanian government attributed the closure to measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and did not reopen it after controlling the pandemic, making the only exit for the camp residents towards areas controlled by the regime.

 

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