CNEWA Launches Emergency Campaign to Aid Earthquake Survivors

With time running out to find survivors of yesterday’s devastating earthquake in Syria and Turkey, Catholic Near East Welfare Association has launched an emergency campaign to shelter survivors and provide bedding, food, medicines, nursing formula, diapers and clothing to more than 2,000 families for three months in the Aleppo and Hama areas of northern Syria.

“This is a preliminary response,” said CNEWA’s president, Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, “focusing on the work of our partners on the ground who have come to us, asking for our prayers and support.

“Although our partners are already opening the doors to receive families who have lost everything, such as the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, survivors are still processing the shock of the earthquake, searching through the rubble and assisting in rescue efforts,” said CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, whose team manages emergency programs throughout the region. “There is a general state of panic, exacerbated by the harsh weather,” he added, “complicating rescue efforts and the capacity to collect and assess data and plan accordingly.”

CNEWA’s preliminary aid will assist the work of the Blue Marist Brothers to house, clothe, feed and care for up to 1,000 families in the Aleppo area for up to three months. Right now, together with the Franciscan Friars and Salesian Fathers, they are providing shelter to more than 2,000 people.

“The situation is tragic … we have opened our convent doors to hundreds of families who have lost their houses, and their number is increasing by the hour,” said Brother Georges Sabe, a member of the Blue Marists. “We are receiving the elderly, children and women who are now in urgent need of food, clothes, medications and most of all, comfort and warmth in this harsh winter.”

CNEWA’s efforts will also support the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which already supports more than 850 families in the Aleppo region devastated by civil war through the local churches’ vast network of parishes and schools. CNEWA will provide St. Vincent de Paul staff and volunteers with mattresses, pillows, blankets and food, water and medicines. Milk, nursing formula and diapers will also be provided.

In the Syrian city of Hama, about 153 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, CNEWA will be supporting three emergency shelters for more than 150 families who have lost their homes due to the 7.8-magnitude quake and the multiple aftershocks. CNEWA will provide bedding, kitchen utensils, food and medicines.

“We lived and survived the long years of war but never experienced this kind of fear,” said Bishop Abdo Abrash of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Homs, Hama and Yabroud, which is running the shelters. “It is true misery … there is a lack of first aid equipment to tend to the survivors.”

“While the situation on the ground is chaotic, this is a critical moment to help heal those who have survived, those who ‘saw death’ as one of our partners told me,” reported Mr. Constantin.

“Even though we at CNEWA are accustomed to tragedies and emergencies, we are not immune to their toll,” said Msgr. Vaccari. “We ask for your prayers of support and consolation for the victims of this horror, your prayers for those who have lost their lives and those who mourn them.

“Please be generous in this emergency campaign,” he concluded. “Your generous support helps us to help victims of this earthquake experience healing and rebuild their lives.”

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