Update: Relief Efforts in Syria

In March 2012, CNEWA launched an appeal to help the Syrian church provide emergency relief to families forced from their homes and properties in the city of Homs and the nearby town of al Qusayr.

Assistance to Christian partners in Syria is being coordinated by CNEWA’s Pontifical Mission office in Beirut.

Fighting has now reached Christian neighborhoods in Aleppo and Damascus, potentially exacerbating the displacement of families.

CNEWA is receiving assistance from sources throughout North America and Europe, including grants from several foundations:

  • Kindermissionswerk Germany allocated ?30,000 to help displaced Syrian children up to 14 years of age
  • Archdiocese of Cologne allocated ?50,000 to help displaced Christian families inside Syria
  • Missio allocated ?50,000 to help displaced Christian families inside Syria and Lebanon
  • The Raskob Foundation allocated $30,000 to help displaced families in Syria and Lebanon.

Implementation and progress

On 15 May 2012, CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Issam Bishara, signed cooperative agreements with the following partners:

  • The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, represented by its Provincial Superior Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, to help two centers located in Akrama, Homs, and another center in the old city of Damascus;
  • The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, represented by Father Maher Mansour, to support the patriarchate’s efforts to help refugees in Damascus;
  • The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, represented by Samer Laham, Director of Ecumenical Relations and Development, to provide emergency help to families displaced from Homs to Wadi al Nasarah (the Valley of the Christians) and villages surrounding Homs;
  • and Father Eliane Nasrallah, Melkite Greek Catholic parish priest of Al Qaa, a Lebanese village located on the border with Syria and very close to al Qusayr.

According to this agreement:

  1. CNEWA will be responsible for all fund-raising and collections from international and church donors for the purpose of providing emergency assistance to displaced families who have lost their homes and sources of living and revenues.
  2. CNEWA will cooperate and coordinate with the local partners representing the Syrian church to assure the receipt of all data concerning the families that requested support from the local parties and will allocate necessary funds to enable them to provide assistance as needed to the beneficiaries.
  3. The local partners will undertake through coordination and cooperation with CNEWA to abide by the rules and conditions of the provided grants regarding the selection of beneficiaries; their social conditions, age and/or gender, and undertakes to provide lists in the names of the beneficiaries with their signatures and all the required documents (invoices, receipts, etc.).
  4. The local partners commit to full transparency in informing CNEWA on due time for any occurring changes in the nature of the needs or regarding receiving similar aids from other donors for the same purpose to prevent duplication and waste of funds.
  5. CNEWA, in its turn, undertakes to be discreet in dealing with the lists of the names of beneficiaries in a way not to subject these families to any physical or moral danger.
  6. This is the general basis for the cooperation protocol between the two parties without incurring any obligation to specific amounts.

Following the signature of different agreements, CNEWA’s Beirut office started to receive necessary data regarding the displaced families including their names, ID numbers, current addresses, phone numbers, number of family members and different ages of children, special medical needs, social situation and employment and other pertinent information.

The first phase was launched on 24 May 2012 and targeted 980 children displaced from Homs and Al Qusayr to Damascus, Wadi al Nasarah, Akrama (near Homs) and Qaa village in Lebanon.

The total amount disbursed for this phase was $40,300 out of which $38,300 (the equivalent of ?30,000) was provided by Kindermissionswerk and $2,000 provided by the Archdiocese of Cologne.

It is important to mention that our coordination with different partners is based on geographical subdivision of the beneficiaries, not on a confessional basis. Accordingly, we have agreed with all partners that all needy families from all rites and confessions living in one area should be registered by one partner only and provided with help by this party without any discrimination. In Damascus, the Good Shepherd sisters were active in one sector and the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate is active in another, but both are coordinating in order to avoid duplication.

The second phase followed on 6 July 2012, targeting needy displaced families and children.

This phase is still under execution and so far CNEWA has committed $51,280 for the following:

The sisters of the Good Shepherd submitted new lists for 457 needy families displaced from Homs to three locations. The sisters proposed to help each family with food rations consisting of cheese, crushed wheat, luncheon meats, powdered milk, rice, spaghetti, sugar, tea, thyme, tuna and vegetable oil. The cost of each package is estimated at $40.

Accordingly, CNEWA’s Beirut office disbursed the following:

  • An amount of $8,840 was disbursed to the sisters of the Good Shepherd in Akrama to distribute food packages for 221 displaced families
  • An amount of $5,000 was disbursed to the sisters of the Good Shepherd in Tartous to distribute food packages for 125 displaced families
  • An amount of $4,440 was disbursed to the sisters of the Good Shepherd in Damascus to distribute food packages for 111 displaced families.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has already screened and identified 1,010 needy children displaced with their families to Wadi al Nasarah and villages in the rural area outside the city of Homs.

The responsible for the program, Samer Laham, proposed to help every child with a kit consisting of baby soaps, baby shampoo, biscuits, bottled water, cheese spread, detergent, diapers, milk, powder for skin allergies, protective creams and wet wipes. The cost of each package is estimated at $50.

In the second phase CNEWA will disburse the amount of $33,500 in the first half of August.

A third phase of aid to displaced families is still under preparation and based on previous contacts made with CNEWA’s office in Beirut. CNEWA expects to extend the program and to enroll new partners such as the St. Vincent De Paul Society in Damascus and the Jesuit’s mission in Homs.

Moreover, the third phase will consist of distributing heating fuel and warm clothing for the winter. There is also a possibility to help newly opened schools in Homs in order to enroll the displaced students and save their academic year. However, all data concerning this phase is still under review and is subject to changes depending on the security situation on the ground.

Issam Bishara
CNEWA-Pontifical Mission
Regional Director, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt

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