Since the ground first shook in the early morning of Monday, 6 February, Syria and Turkey have been in crisis, both in the search and care for survivors. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and the second quake and aftershocks that followed, have killed more than 11,000 people and injured tens of thousands more. It is expected both of these numbers will increase as search and rescue efforts continue.
Due to its existing partnerships in Syria, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is focusing its preliminary efforts on reaching survivors in the hardest hit areas there, primarily in the Aleppo and Hama regions.
In Aleppo, the Blue Marist Brothers, a CNEWA-partner, are currently sheltering 500 people, a number which has fluctuated due to aftershocks in the area, reports CNEWA’s regional director based in Beirut, Michel Constantin.
“The number decreased yesterday [7 February] with families returning to their homes, however increased again as many houses were inhabitable or destroyed,” he says.
The Blue Marist Brothers are working alongside the Franciscan Missionaries and the Salesian Fathers, who are sheltering 400 and 1,000 people, respectively.
These organizations have overlapping requests for urgent needs: the greatest priority is food, but other high priority requests include mattresses, blankets, sanitary items, clothes, milk and diapers.
Also in Aleppo, the Mekhitarist Fathers are sheltering 2,000 at their school and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has screened approximately 900 families and will begin accommodating families tomorrow, 9 February.
“In Hama,” says Mr. Constantin, “the situation is less dramatic, the toll of death is much lower than in Aleppo as well as magnitude of destruction.”
This area, along with Homs, is accepting displaced persons from Aleppo, according to Archbishop Jean-Abdo Arbash of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Homs, Hama and Yabroud. The archeparchy is working to provide shelter, food and essential items like blankets.
“We have to increase our efforts to support these families,” he said, especially as the situation in Aleppo and other affected areas worsens, driving families to seek shelter there.
Yesterday’s aftershock, reported Blue Marist Brother Georges Sabe in Aleppo, which registered at 5.5 magnitude, “worsened the situation … more buildings were damaged and threatened the lives of the residents.
“More and more families cannot access their homes,” adding that, in fact, they are “forbidden to access the buildings.” One family, he said, “had a second near-death experience as the stairs collapsed before their eyes.”
Clothes, which were previously considered not a high priority need, are now being requested by the brothers and CNEWA’s partners, as many survivors now need coats, a change of clothes and under garments, having found their homes destroyed or inaccessible.
To learn how you can help CNEWA’s relief efforts, visit https://cnewa.org/ca/work/emergency-syria/.