Nearly £1.7 million announced in new emergency aid for Syria

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By Michael J Robinson
A LEADING Catholic charity has announced 22 new aid projects totalling nearly £1.7 million pounds for those in urgent need in Syria.
Aid to the Church in Need has prioritised help for areas hardest hit by the war, including Aleppo, Homs, Damascus.
Father Andrzej Halemba, head of ACN’s Middle East projects’ section, said: “Thousands of people need help. Without it, they will not survive winter or they will leave the city and the country for good.”
The ACN-backed projects will benefit thousands of families and provide basic food supplies, emergency medical care, rent for housing, as well as heating and electricity.
One project will provide oil and repair costs for the Al Inaiet School’s generator in Soulaimaniet, Aleppo.
At present, three million children are unable to attend school.
Half of the schools are not in use – either because they are badly damaged, destroyed or used as bases by soldiers.
Fr Jean Jamous, rector of St George’s parish, Soulaimaniet, Aleppo, asked ACN to help the school with the cost of diesel to run the generator and the heaters.
Electricity in Aleppo is very erratic, sometimes just two or three hours per day.
Also in Aleppo, the Sisters of Jesus and Mary are providing medical help to displaced families.
Among many priorities, treating the wounded, sanitation and hygiene are the most pressing.
Medical staff have left the city and health institutions have been targeted by aerial bombardments, resulting in fatalities and destruction of facilities.
The winter has badly affected the already poorly nourished citizens of Aleppo and presented more serious health risks, such as respiratory infections.
Continued fighting has made access to the health centres increasingly difficult.
The ACN help will also include projects in the Valley of the Christians in western Syria, which as well as food will include psychological support – especially for children traumatised by war – and medical aid.
ACN’s Fr Halemba explained that, in addition to meeting the most immediate needs, the emergency aid seeks to offer Syria’s Christians hope for the future.
He said: “We are especially worried about the Christians in Aleppo and Damascus, but also the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
“Fear is ever present. It is intense, almost palpable, especially since the new so-called Islamic State was proclaimed.
“Bishop Audo of Aleppo told me, ‘Aleppo’s Christians are afraid that what happened in Mosul will also happen to them.’
“This is a new, and unfortunately justified, fear of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
“The Islamic State openly shows its murderous intentions against anyone who does not bend to its brand of extremism.
“They are proud of their cruelty against ‘unbelievers’ and blatantly fall back on the sword.”
According to Father Halemba, the situation of the Syrian people has increasingly desperate because the interest of the international community has noticeably waned.
The European Union has calculated that 12.2 million people are affected by the war in Syria.
This brings the number of internally displaced persons close to eight million.