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World News

Catholic charity pledges more than £1million to help the hungry in Syria

by Donna Birrell

The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has pledged more than £1 million for projects in Syria, as the country's economic crisis deepens. 

It says a decade of war has left millions begging for bread, shelter and other essentials. 

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is providing ongoing support including food, rent and medical aid together with spiritual and psychological support.

Projects helped by the charity include rent for 100 families in Aleppo for a year, a summer holiday programme for disabled children and food and clothes for needy families in the capital Damascus.

Working with the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in Damascus and other Christian aid organisations, ACN is helping the "Bakery of Mercy" in Maarouneh, northern Damascus, which has been providing food, to expand its work.

Set up in September 2020, it currently provides around 1,000 families with affordable bread. 

Internally displaced persons, as well as those living in elderly people's homes and orphanages, are provided with free bread by the "Bakery of Mercy". 

With help from ACN, plans are now underway to extend the premises to build a soup kitchen and a social market, which will offer basic food and other products at affordable and stable prices.

The UN has reported that 12.4 million (60 percent) of people were not getting enough to eat - as a combination of factors, including international sanctions and financial meltdown of key trading partner Lebanon, have led to food prices rocketing in Syria.

Father Ashkar, the Maronite Eparchy of Lattakia's finance officer, told ACN: "After nine years of war, international isolation, international sanctions against Syria and the Lebanese economic crisis, the pandemic has added insult to injury with many people losing their jobs in a prolonged lockdown and the Syrian people almost reduced to begging. 

"The worst of all these calamities was the Lebanese economic crisis with the devaluation of the currency and the capital controls, which made most Syrians lose their savings there".

To try to address Syria's lack of jobs, the ACN-backed Christian Hope Center opened in Damascus last month, providing families with funds to begin new businesses or restart ventures disrupted during the war. 

Since the civil war began in 2011, Syria's ancient Christian community has shrunk to one-third of its 1.5 million pre-war total.

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