The coronavirus is causing the West to forget the people of Syria. And yet, these people are still in desperate need of help after almost a decade of conflict, according to a nun who has risked her life to provide urgent aid.
Sister Annie Demerjian told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that COVID-19 has brought the country’s recovery to a halt: “Syria is like someone who has had a serious operation and needs to heal, to recover and suddenly doesn’t have time to recover. The world has started to forget about Syria and that’s sad.”
“People were just starting to breathe a sigh of relief”
Sister Annie, one of the main partners of ACN in Syria, explained that just as people were beginning to piece their lives back together, the pandemic came as a cruel blow. “Everybody knows that we are coming out of a very difficult situation, the civil war. People were starting to breathe, the Christians still here were beginning to bounce back. Then the pandemic came and people fell apart. It’s unfortunate. There is no work, there are no jobs.”
Sister Annie stressed that the combination of the civil war, the pandemic and new economic sanctions against the government of Syria have left many people in abject poverty. She stated: “Life without electricity and gas is very hard and that’s because of the sanctions. We only have one hour of electricity every two hours, which is not enough to heat a house. There is not enough gas to cook.” Highlighting the rampant poverty, she said: “We often receive calls, people are hungry, they have nothing to eat.”
ACN has helped Sister Annie to provide parkas for more than 26,000 children for the winter months when temperatures can dip below zero. She said: “A father cannot buy his child a parka because one parka is equal to his monthly salary, or even more. Our campaign was for families who find it impossible to outfit their children. It has helped thousands of children. “You cannot imagine the joy in the faces and eyes of the children when they are given the parkas. ACN funded this.” Emphasizing that this campaign has provided jobs, Sister Annie added: “We are trying to help the economy. Forty stores and factories made the parkas, which created jobs as well. We had two goals: creating jobs and distributing parkas to our children in this harsh winter.
Sister Annie concluded by thanking the supporters of ACN. She said: “Even in this difficult time, the benefactors of ACN have not stopped supporting us. I will pray for the benefactors and the workers of ACN – you are doing amazing, amazing work. Through ACN, we are helping 270 families with their daily cost of living. We are also helping 84 families with their rent, in Aleppo and a little bit in Damascus.”