Wounded, destitute and sick people in Aleppo, one of the cities worst affected by the conflict in Syria, are to receive emergency aid from an international Catholic charity amid worsening reports of crisis as winter bites deep across the region.
The aid packages totalling €190,000 (£156,900) being sent out by Aid to the Church in Need this week will provide medical help for the wounded, repairs to the war-damaged homes of Christians and basic aid – heating, food and rent money for people on the breadline.
This latest emergency help means that, since the Syrian crisis broke nearly three years ago, ACN urgent aid for the region has now topped €2.7m (£2.2m) – one of the largest aid packages of its kind since the charity began in 1947.
Amid continuing dire reports from Syria, ACN pushed through this latest aid after a desperate S.O.S. appeal from Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who described “the bombing of many Christian homes” and the urgent need to help “many wounded people” in his city, in the north of the country.
Working under Bishop Audo’s authority, Aleppo-based Sisters of Jesus and Mary are being entrusted with €90,000 (£74,300) to help up to 500 families in urgent need of gas and electricity for heating and cooking as well as rent money, medical assistance, food and clothing.
A further €50,000 (£41,200) will fund repairs to war-damaged homes, shops and other businesses of Christians in Aleppo who are determined to stay in the country.
Bomb-blasted windows and doors are being given top priority for repairs.
At Bishop Audo’s request, another €50,000 (£41,200) is going to help wounded people receiving treatment at St LouisHospital, Aleppo.
In her letter of last week requesting ACN help, Sister Annie Demerjian from the Sisters of Jesus and Mary described the urgent need to increase help for suffering families both in Aleppo and in another northern Syrian city, Hassake, also receiving aid from the charity.
At a time of increasing reports of a widespread breakdown of schools and employment in Aleppo with bombing of factories and key services, Sr Annie said: “We feel the massive need to carry on providing assistance to our Christian families threatened with the loss of morale.
“The assistance will enable us to erase the families’ pain.”
This aid for Aleppo comes on top of earlier ACN aid sent through the Jesus and Mary Sisters a year ago.
Since then, the help needed has drastically increased and the number of people receiving emergency assistance from the Sisters has more than doubled.
Sr Annie wrote: “Unfortunately, life has become very expensive due to the lack of materials, particularly energy. To obtain gas and diesel fuel, especially in the harsh winter, is like a dream.”
Echoing the words of Bishop Audo, she said that a key aim is to help Christians to stay in the region.
She said: “Despite the dramatically difficult situation, people still do not want to leave their homes.
“So that they are not forced to emigrate, we are trying to help them survive until hopefully this present crisis is overcome.”
Aid to the Church in Need UK National Director Neville Kyrke-Smith noted the lack of progress in the Geneva II peace talks set up to bring the warring sides in Syria to the negotiating table.
He said: “There seems to be a terrible impasse in the Syrian conflict.
“Yet, all our efforts, prayers and aid must continue.”
Sr Annie wrote: “Many people in Aleppo and Hassake, particularly women, children and elderly are expecting us – as workers of Christ – to give a helping hand.
“Without your help, we cannot alleviate their suffering in this misery that we actually undergo in Syria.”
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK);www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)