A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Syria and Turkey on 6 February, and quakes and aftershocks in the weeks that followed, have caused massive damage, killing more than 50,000 people and injuring tens of thousands more.
CNEWA responded immediately by focusing its initial outreach efforts in Syria, whose people continue to suffer tremendous hardship after 12 years of civil war devastated the nation’s infrastructure and economy, as well as rampant internal corruption and U.S.-led sanctions that have hampered charities in their delivery of much-needed human services.
Working through its established partnerships with church organizations, CNEWA is providing help in Aleppo and to less-affected areas, such as Hama and Lattakia, where survivors from the hardest-hit areas have found shelter offered by local Christian communities.
CNEWA’s Beirut-based team, responsible for coordinating CNEWA’s Syria response, has raised more than $1.66 million in emergency funds from a family of donors, European and North American, distributing more than $625,000 in the first stages of immediate relief, which included the provision of food, medicine, blankets, clothes and other essentials. As the situation remains fluid with powerful aftershocks, long-term planning — which includes infrastructure and housing assessment, restoration and rebuilding — is on hold until some stability resumes.
By the beginning of March, CNEWA’s partners, including members of the Franciscan, Mekhitarist and Salesian communities, Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Blue Marists, were sheltering and/or providing aid for up to 3,000 people, responding to requests for food — the greatest priority — as well as mattresses, blankets, sanitary items, clothes, milk and diapers.
In Aleppo, the Mekhitarist Fathers continue to shelter 700 people in their school and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul supports about 1,700 people in 10 centers. An additional 1,000 people are being sheltered at two centers of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Homs, Hama and Yabroud and an additional 1,200 people by the Franciscan Friars in Lattakia. CNEWA is also working closely with the Chaldean bishops in Syria and Turkey, whose communities were impacted by the quake.
CNEWA Regional Director Michel Constantin, who manages crises responses from the Beirut office, has noted that preparations are already in place for the next stage of assistance, such as the relocation of families and rental assistance, minor repairs of homes and supply of furniture to those rendered homeless. CNEWA President Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari added that supporting local businesses to help revive societies, especially those of the Christian community, will help stabilize a people shattered by war, sectarian violence, sanctions, corruption and now, earthquakes.
To help CNEWA’s relief efforts, go to: https://cnewa.org/ca/work/emergency-syria/