SYRIA: Mothers and children scavenge for food in bins

Sister Annie Demerjian praying, Syria
Sister Annie Demerjian praying, Syria

Food shortages are so dire in Syria, according to a respected project partner of a leading Catholic charity, that women and children are scavenging for food in bins.

Sister Annie Demerjian told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that deepening economic crisis means people in Syria are “surviving on one meal a day or less”.

She said: “The explosion of poverty is now worse than in the time of war.”

She added: “Our people are not getting enough to eat… It is very painful to see people, children and women, looking in bins desperate for food.”

Sister Annie’s comments come after the UN reported that 12.4 million (60 percent) of people were not getting enough to eat, an increase of 3.1 million within nine months.

The religious Sister, who is based in Damascus, the capital, also stressed the impact of rising inflation, with UN reports that food prices had risen sharply and that more than 500,000 children under five were suffering from stunting as well as chronic malnutrition.

The Sister’s comments come on the eve of the launch of a fresh appeal for Syria ‘Hungry for Hope’ being launched next week by Aid to the Church in Need.

Sister Annie described key projects she is wanting to expand to meet growing needs including food vouchers, children’s clothes and rent money for hundreds of people threatened with eviction for not keeping up their monthly payments.

Stressing widespread unemployment, she said: “So many years of war have paralysed the lives of our people – hundreds and thousands of people without getting any job – so you can imagine life without work, without income.”

She thanked ACN’s benefactors for their ongoing support, including during the darkest days of the war.

“Thank God for your help, I always keep in mind the image of St Paul who said that if one part of the body is suffering, the whole body is suffering.

“You really live this image. You are sharing our suffering, not just keeping us on your prayers but also supporting us by helping us meet our different needs.”

Sister Annie said she was especially grateful given the COVID-19 pandemic adding that ACN supporters “have continued supporting us in spite of all the difficulties that our world is passing [through]”.

Since the civil war began in 2011, Syria has been a priority country for ACN, which aims to bolster one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, that has shrunk to one-third of its 1.5 million pre-war total.