Reflections one year after devastating earthquake in Syria, Syriac Cross’s year-long relief efforts for those affected

HOLEB, Syria — A year has passed since the catastrophic earthquake ravaged Syrian and Turkish territories, leaving tens of thousands of people dead, and hundreds of thousands injured and displaced. Despite the passage of time, the plight of Syrians, especially children, persists, compounded by ongoing conflicts and humanitarian crises.

Speaking on the state of Syria and its populace one-year post-disaster, Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Damascus and Chair of the Charity Service Committee, Bishop Youhanna Jihad Battah, shed light on the enduring challenges faced by Syrians.

In an interview with EWTN News, Archbishop Battah highlighted how sieges and sanctions have exacerbated the suffering of Syrians. He emphasized the vital role of the Committee for the Service of Love, established months prior to the earthquake, in coordinating relief efforts primarily through Catholic church institutions, with a focus on medical aid. Notably, the committee initiated a project last year that facilitated approximately 1,500 surgical operations.

The Archbishop noted that the challenges faced in Syria have been compounded by a series of crises, including the Syrian war, the COVID-19 pandemic, soaring prices, and conflicts in Gaza and the Holy Lands.

Meanwhile, UNICEF reports that approximately 7.5 million Syrian children are in dire need of humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing war, with the earthquake exacerbating their plight. Executive Director Catherine Russell warned of increased disease risks post-earthquake, aggravated by prolonged drought and water shortages, alongside food insecurity leading to heightened malnutrition and child mortality.

Malek Hanna, a representative of the Syriac Cross Organization for Relief and Development in Syria, unveiled the organization’s extensive relief endeavors spanning a whole year to aid those affected by the devastating earthquake in Syria.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Syriac Cross and Stichting Shlomo, in collaboration with the Federation of Syriac associations in Turkey or SÜDEF (Süryani Dernekler Federasyonu), initiated a series of humanitarian campaigns aimed at providing assistance to the afflicted populations.

Reflecting on the past year’s efforts, Hanna recounted the organization’s swift response following the earthquake, highlighting their immediate coordination with churches in Holeb (Aleppo) and Latakia to assess the situation and ascertain the most pressing needs. He emphasized the crucial partnerships forged with various organizations to ensure the provision of essential supplies to affected communities.

Hanna detailed the deployment of organizational teams to liaise with local churches and committees, facilitating the procurement and distribution of emergency provisions, including food, children’s supplies, and vital medical aid to several churches.

With a focus on long-term recovery, Hanna stated that the organization extended support to hundreds of families who suffered property loss or displacement due to the earthquake, offering essential sustenance during their time of need.

As stability gradually returned and families began to resettle, the organization extended a lifeline by creating employment opportunities for four individuals unable to resume their previous occupations, aiding in their journey towards rebuilding their lives.