Accompanying Syria amid 12 years of war and the aftermath of the earthquake

15 March 2023

One month after the earthquake, JRS is distributing food to those most in need.
JRS is distributing food to displaced people in Aleppo affected by the earthquake. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

“Three weeks after the deadly earthquake that destroyed the city of Aleppo, people have begun to somehow adapt to the new situation. Some of the rubble has been cleared and some of the rubble remains, but the physical rubble tells only one side of the story.”

Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ, JRS Director in Syria, describes the situation in Aleppo highlighting that the worst of all rubbles is psychological. The terror caused by the earthquake is only the most recent challenge to the resilience of a population that has already faced 12 years of war, the Covid-19 pandemic and cholera epidemic, and crippling poverty due to war and sanctions.

“People often need to talk about their suffering. Some of them have lost family members or they are in the shelters or sleeping outdoors, so it is important to support the survivors not only with medical treatment but also by offering them a sympathetic ear and a safe space,” says Fr O’Riordan.

JRS has restarted and extended its healthcare services, providing psychological and psychosocial support as an integrated part of the medical service to address both physical and psychological needs. JRS is also distributing food aiming to reach about 40,000 people during the next six months as the population, especially children, are at serious risk of malnutrition.

“It is a very costly task but, when we did the average figures, we worked out that for less than one euro a day we can provide one member of a family with sufficient food to at least survive for about a month. Therefore, five euros would support an average size family for one day, and thirty-five euros would support a family for a week. These little financial contributions are an amazing way for people in other parts of the world to help JRS serve the Syrians during these difficult times,” adds Fr O’Riordan.

Syria is in desperate need of short-term humanitarian aid. It will not be easy for Syrians to regain a sense of safety and be able to confront the tremendous challenges that they were facing before the catastrophe. Long-term investment in durable solutions is absolutely necessary, not only to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed but also the lives and futures of a population that has been suffering for 12 years.

Before the earthquake, the world had forgotten Syria. Let’s not let it happen again.