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2023 earthquake in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: JRS MENA
Note: This article has been updated to refect current donations received.
Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) has raised $183,791.36 to help victims of the deadly February 6 earthquake in northwest Syria.
CJI is sending donations received from Canadians to its international partner, Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) Syria, whose staff is working on the ground to address the needs of those most affected in Aleppo, where about two million people have been affected by the earthquake. As many as 5.3 million people may have been left homeless in Syria by the devastating earthquake, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
JRS Syria staff are helping to provide emergency services, including food, shelter, winter clothes and other basic needs, as well as psychosocial support. In addition to the physical harm caused by the earthquake, the JRS team in Aleppo has identified psychological distress as a major reason why people are not returning to their homes.
Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ, country director of JRS Syria, has been making the rounds of hospitals visiting those who have been critically injured. “There’s a long, long journey that’s shared by thousands across the city and millions across the region in relation to housing, basic needs, and the psychological impact of what they have lived through in the last weeks,” he said in a video.
JRS has rolled out a large distribution network to help sustain the living expenses of about 40,000 people for a month, said Fr O’Riordan. “It works out to about less than one Euro ($CAD 1.44) a day to support each individual, so with your support we can do this,” he said.
“It is with deep sorrow that we hear the stories of our Syrian colleagues and friends, whose own lives have been affected by years of civil war and now the earthquake,” said CJI Executive Director Jenny Cafiso. “They have worked tirelessly to support their fellow citizens and neighbours, and now they have once again mobilized in the face of such tragedy. We are happy to be able to support them thanks to the generous support of so many Canadians.”
The devastating impact of the earthquake takes place against a backdrop of significant pre-existing psychosocial needs” resulting from 12 years of war in the country.
The earthquake has only heightened the suffering of Syrians displaced by the protracted war. Even before the earthquake struck, more than 15.3 million people already needed some form of humanitarian assistance, the highest number since the start of the war in 2011, according to JRS. “The country still has the largest number of internally displaced people in the world, at 6.8 million,” said JRS. “Humanitarian and economic indicators continue to deteriorate, with basic services collapsing, and an ongoing cholera outbreak compounding an already dire situation.”
Affected communities do not have the resources to respond to their own needs in the wake of the disaster, said JRS. “Savings have been depleted, with families already relying on credit and borrowing money to cover basic needs,” it said, adding that in Aleppo alone, 61 percent of people were already estimated to be food insecure prior to the earthquake.
For the next six months, JRS Syria hopes to address the immediate needs of about 50,000 individuals affected by the earthquake in Aleppo, Homs, Al-Kafroun and Damascus.
JRS Syria began operations in the country in 2008, responding to the needs of Iraqi refugees. Its focus shifted with the outbreak of the Syrian war in March 2011. Today, it serves conflict-affected communities across Aleppo. Homs, Al-Kafroun and rural Damascus through a variety of services, including education, community building programmes, and medical clinics.
Please donate to Canadian Jesuits International to support JRS Syria as they help the people of Syria recover from this disaster.
Thank you for your generous donation.