SYRIA: Emergency help for villagers desperate for food
By John Pontifex
Christians women in Syria in more peaceful times
12,000 people trapped in their village in Syria and desperate for food and other urgent help are to receive emergency assistance from Aid to the Church in Need.
Aid to the Church in Need has today (Friday, 24 August) agreed a £39,500 grant providing food, medicine and baby milk for people stranded in a village two miles from the Lebanese border.
Food and other basic necessities dwindled rapidly after the village was cut off with reports of bridges blown up, roads rendered impassable and power lines down as the conflict intensified between the regime’s forces and the Free Syrian Army.
Aid to the Church in Need agreed the emergency payment after a delegation from the charity in Lebanon met Maronite Patriarch Boutros Rai just as the news about the villagers’ plight was broken to him.
The emergency aid – which includes bread, sugar, milk powder, good and nappies – is a joint initiative between Aid to the Church in Need and Catholic humanitarian organisation Caritas (Lebanon).
A Caritas report detailing the crisis describes a telephone call with a priest from the village who is quoted saying: ‘“We have organised ourselves so we could stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we could survive. We need every help we could get. Please help us.”’
The document goes on to report people from the village who have now fled to Lebanon describing the situation back home: “Some people are starting to feel the hunger, children’s milk is running out, [there are] no canned goods, even children’s diapers no longer exist.”
The challenge of getting aid through was underlined by reports that motorcyclists trying to carry bread into the village were shot at. Nobody was killed.
The village cannot be named because of the risk to inhabitants.
The aid is the latest in a series of emergency packages for Syria made over the past few months by Aid to the Church in Need.
The grants include three months’ supply of food and medicine for families in the besieged second city of Aleppo, food for displaced families in the capital Damascus, and Mass stipends for 12 priests ministering in the Syrian capital.
The charity has also provided emergency aid for families trapped in the old city of Homs as well as food and shelter for 1,500 families forced to flee the city for surrounding villages.