Humanitarian Crisis Deepens in Syria
Religion & Liberty Online

Humanitarian Crisis Deepens in Syria

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the humanitarian relief agency for Orthodox Churches in the United States, is working with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East to provide emergency medical assistance, hygiene kits, and personal care items to displaced Idlib families who have fled to the Syrian port city of Lattakia. Idlib, in northwestern Syria, was captured by Al-Qaida’s local branch of Islamist fighters in late March. Now there are reports of the Syrian government using chemical weapons on the Islamist rebels. The situation is grim for those fleeing the fighting.

According to [IOCC] staff on the ground, approximately 300 of the nearly 5,000 displaced people fleeing Idlib arrived in Lattakia with injuries, many related to flying shrapnel. Some of them arrived alone knowing nothing about the rest of their families, while others managed to get out with their families intact. “I escaped with all of my 14 family members,” said Fadi, a displaced Idlib resident. “We barely fit in the small car which was our only transportation. Many cars around us crashed as they tried to flee, because they were shot by a sniper while trying to escape the city.”

Rami, who also fled Idlib, said he and his 9-year-old daughter made it out through the city’s sewage channels to avoid snipers. They walked all night to reach safety, but he now faces new fears for his family. “My daughter is in complete shock from what she witnessed, and I can’t stop thinking about my parents who are still trapped in Idlib.” IOCC/GOPA is helping traumatized parents like Rami through counseling that will equip them and their children with the coping skills they need to deal with such difficult experiences.

In addition to those families who fled to Lattakia, IOCC/GOPA rapid action teams are on the ground responding to the needs of other families arriving to the cities of Hamah and Jableh with relief such as shelter, bedding, clothing, and hygiene kits.

The great majority of Idlib’s population of an estimated 600,000 people remains trapped inside the besieged city. Should conflict continue to escalate, the United Nations and partners estimate that up to 240,000 people could be displaced into Government-controlled areas of Idlib, Lattakia, Tartous and Hama governorates.

For more on IOCC’s work in Syria, see “IOCC Assists Syrian Families Escaping Bloodshed In Idlib.”

John Couretas

is a writer and editor based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.