Returning from a 10-day visit to Syria and neighbouring Lebanon, Regina Lynch, director of projects for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has described dire poverty with people trying to survive on a dollar a day.
She said: “An associate [in Syria] of one of our project partners showed me pictures on her phone, which she took from her flat. You can see a little girl inside a large rubbish bin, rummaging, passing things to her mother.
“The nun who was with us told her: ‘Next time you see this, please go to them and give them money. I will repay you later.’ It breaks my heart to see such things.”
Ms Lynch said Syrians are “very tired” from a decade of civil war and insecurity amid reports that Turkish forces have been shelling towns in the north-east of the country.
She said: “Syrians are wondering how they are going to rebuild, who is going to help them rebuild the country. But, before that, there has to be some form of peace…
“They are trying to survive on a dollar a day – unthinkable in a country where, before the war, a large part of the population lived quite comfortably.”
The crisis has sparked an exodus of Christians in both countries, said Ms Lynch.
Ms Lynch said: “It’s truly tragic. Many of the Christians we talked to [in Lebanon], those whom we know, their relatives, want to leave. For so many, survival is a real uphill struggle with basic needs in short supply.
“Before the crisis, a teacher could earn between US$1,700 or $2,000 a month. Now, with inflation and the devaluation of Lebanese pounds against the dollar, a teacher’s salary is worth $120 to $150 at most.”
She added: “To put it sadly: the people are anxious. It’s getting worse and worse. Last year we were in Beirut but this time we really saw the decline and despair.
“The same goes for Syria. Before the crisis, Aleppo was home to an estimated 300,000 Christians of different denomination, now some say that only 30,000 are left.”
ACN has supported more than 100 projects in Lebanon and Syria in 2021, including emergency aid, medicine, support for Religious, and more.
Ms Lynch said: “We must give hope and support…We are working on a project in Aleppo, which will consist of giving newlyweds enough money to cover basic needs or pay the rent of a flat for two years.”