For weeks, people from all faiths and backgrounds found refuge and were given a safe haven, a place to sleep, and hot food. “Last year, in Aleppo, we had already set up an emergency kitchen to provide hot meals. After the earthquake, we went from one thousand meals a day to two thousand,” Giacomo says.
Suffering upon suffering
Indeed, after twelve years of war during which Aleppo has been the scene of some of the most devastating battles, the seismic catastrophe has only added suffering upon suffering. Its destruction of the city was immense. Luckily, even though some of the convents were slightly damaged, the structures of century-old buildings remained absolutely intact.
“In all the convent emergency centres we provided a place to sleep, water and hot food. By now, some people went to other places, but to this day we still host three thousand persons who have nowhere else to go.”
Next to the emergency kitchen, aid workers distribute food kits prepared in three centres close to the convents. These kits, with olive oil, pasta, bread and other basic necessities, provide enough food for families for about three weeks.
Gearing up assistance
Pro Terra Sancta has been providing humanitarian support in Syria since 2019. “We have now geared up our centres and resources to also respond to the earthquake disaster,” says Giacomo. “For example, in our thee centres in the Aleppo area we have been providing art therapy and other forms of psychosocial support to war orphans for the past four years. Now, after the quake, these centres support seven hundred more children, all of them affected by the disaster. And we are also assisting six hundred women, many of them single mothers, in these centres as well.”
Sadly, a number of children supported by the centres were killed by the earthquake. “We don’t know for certain how many, but at least ten children died. They were staying with relatives, outside the centres, when the earthquake struck.”
Muslim and Christian aid workers
Giacomo stresses that, even though Pro Terra Sancta is closely connected to the catholic church in Syria, its humanitarian assistance is provided regardless of faith or background. “To make sure that Christians and Muslims alike can find their way to our doors and centres, we work with staff of both faiths. In Syrian cities, where religious groups tend to have their own quarters, this is also a way to further interfaith collaboration and dialogue.”
This picture gallery shows a food distribution visit in East Aleppo