A Catholic nun has warned that civilians in war-torn Syria are more at risk from hunger than from gunfire.
Sister Annie Demerjian has spoken regularly to the media about the situation on the ground in Syria, where she and her colleagues minister to the poor and desperate.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Sister Annie said that widespread food shortages are posing huge problems, even for families with jobs.
The Syrian civil war started in 2011, when a peaceful uprising against the president turned into a full-scale war. It is estimated that chemicals weapons started being used in 2013 and that half a million people have so far died in the conflict.
Sister Annie said: “The big bomb now is the hunger. The war we are fighting now is against hunger. The money we are giving them [the families] is not enough… The income of the family does not equal what they need to live on a daily basis.”
Spiralling poverty, rising inflation and a stagnant job market have left ordinary Syrians living on the breadline, according to ACN, which provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, among other things.
Sister Annie described one family she knew who “sold their house and gave the money to a group who they thought would get them out of the country by taking them to Turkey. But the money didn’t get them anywhere and now they are without a house and money.
“They are trying to get their money back. All the families are trying to leave Syria.”
In 2015, the UK announced that it would accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees. Between 2011 and 2015, almost 4,200 Syrian refugees were granted asylum in the UK and a further 100 people were allowed to stay in the UK through humanitarian protection or discretionary leave.
The Syrian war has been largely pushed out of the headlines by war in Afghanistan and then Ukraine. Civilians on the ground, however, still experience the reality daily.