Since 2012, the rebellion has become entrenched in Aleppo, the country’s former economic and industrial capital. The appalling humanitarian situation continues to worsen, with over 40,000 inhabitants from Aleppo province setting out on the road to the Turkish border.
The situation in Aleppo
With five million inhabitants, of whom 250,000 are Christians, the “city of darkness” is today split in two: one part is controlled by armed rebel groups, the other by the existing regime. There are now only 60,000 Christians left. Every day, fighting between factions results in civilian casualties, and bombing destroys numerous buildings: churches, convents, historic monuments, factories.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Aleppo
Founded in 1898 in Aleppo, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul used to have 10 Conferences and 125 members. Today, around fifty members have already left Syria. The Society is in a district suffering regular bombing, exposing it to great risk. Léon Konji, president of the Central Council of Aleppo describes the present situation: “the bombings have struck our premises and our home for the elderly. The last bombs fell two weeks ago on our rest home. One person was killed and three injured, and there was much damage.”
The humanitarian situation is critical and there is acute need for water and electricity: “[…] power cuts are very frequent and Aleppo has had scarcely any electricity for the past two years. On the best days, we might have power for about an hour at the most. Drinking water and food supplies are scanty. Last year, Islamic extremist groups closed the city’s main pumping station. We have had no water for 450 days, since the pipes were destroyed by an underground explosion”.
Despite this situation, Léon tries the best he can to keep the society active, by developing emergency aid programmes for people affected by the war: distributing food supplies, clothing, medicines and fuel, as well as development projects, “we are helping with education by contributing to school costs and we provide refresher courses for students in Year 9. We are also running a third-age home, with 35 residents and 10 staff members (editor’s note: home which was bombed). We carried out a major evacuation operation for the elderly people after several bombings in the old Christian district of Aleppo in April 2015. Needs are growing, but our resources have shrunk because of the exodus of wealthy people on whom we relied. The donations in kind that we used to receive have stopped. As the situation becomes more and more precarious, the number of people in need continues to increase. So now we are helping 980 families. The number of children sponsored has increased from 250 to 1200. The number of people given medical help has also increased.”
On the other hand, as Syrian currency has been devalued and so many products are in short supply, prices have rocketed (at the beginning of the war, 1 euro was equivalent to 50 £S. Now 1 euro is 450 £S).
With the funds provided by national councils from all over the world, the CGI supports the Society in countries devastated by the conflicts in the Middle East. For more information, contact Bruno Fabre : coordinator of CIAD (International Commission for Aid and Development): firstname.lastname@example.org