Emergency aid for refugees and internally displaced persons
The war in Syria has now lasted almost 10 years. So far the parties to the conflict have shown no readiness to agree to a ceasefire, let alone engage in peace talks. Thousands of people, mainly civilians, continue to fall victim to the fighting or are being displaced. The invasion by Turkish troops in early October 2019, for example, led to the displacement of over 900,000 people. Ongoing skirmishes in the north-east and north-west of the country over the past two years have displaced hundreds of thousands more. The humanitarian situation in the Middle East is extremely precarious and worsening steadily in Syria owing to the covid 19 pandemic. HEKS/EPER is providing emergency aid there.
The constantly changing security situation poses a substantial and ongoing challenge to humanitarian aid workers in reaching the suffering population. Added to this are the hard-to-predict political dynamics in Syria and its neighbouring countries. This is also leading to growing disinclination on the part of governments to admit Syrian refugees for the long term, and positions are hardening. The latest political turmoil in Lebanon in particular could have disastrous consequences, bearing in mind that the country is already hosting roughly a million war refugees from Syria.
Syria’s health system has suffered badly from the now years-old fighting and the sanctions imposed on the country. The country’s health authorities lack the wherewithal for responding adequately to the humanitarian crisis caused by covid 19. There is a nationwide shortage of qualified medical personnel, tests, personal protective equipment, hospital facilities, medicines, hygiene articles and so on. Syria’s borders with neighbouring countries are closed to all but humanitarian assistance.
HEKS/EPER in Syria
For several years now HEKS/EPER has been providing emergency assistance for internally displaced people and other vulnerable groups. This has so far been done in collaboration with our partner the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA) and has focused essentially on the rural areas around the cities of Raqqa, Damascus, Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and Daraa. At different points in time, these areas have been at the heart of armed fighting, with huge swathes of population being displaced as a result.
Helping to fight the covid 19 pandemic
Through its local partner the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), HEKS/EPER has promoted numerous projects, such as the distribution of daily essentials, food packages and toilet articles as well as the refurbishment of emergency accommodation for displaced people in eastern Ghouta, Daraa, the rural surroundings of Damascus and in Aleppo.
HEKS/EPER is now collaborating with GOPA on its covid19 action plan. This includes the distribution of food packages and toiletries to families in the rural environs of Damascus. Besides, in September 2020 HEKS/EPER successfully supported a pilot project under which 2,500 packages with toilet articles were distributed to internally displaced people in Raqqa, a city over which protracted and fierce battles have been fought and which is now almost completely destroyed.