Delivering aid inside Syria

A makeshift refugee camp in Lebanon about 30 minutes from the Syrian city of Homs. A Syrian refugee called Walid speaks to a Caritas social worker about the situation there. He has a gun wound to his leg. He says he was shot by a sniper. His friends used petrol to cauterise the wound because he says he would have been killed if he went to the hospital and ambulances could not reach him across the front line. The wound is still painful. He is taking some old clothes in the plastic bags (pictured) to try to sell them for medicine. Walid is one of the few Syrian refugees willing to speak on the record. He describes being arrested, made to sleep in a cell with 170 other men, being stripped naked and having burning plastic dripped on him. Photo by Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

Selim* has been working for Caritas Syria in Aleppo for three months helping people with food and other aid.

He says Aleppo has been hit hard by the economic crisis in Syria. The conflict and international sanctions have led to high levels of inflation and unemployment across the country. Caritas helps poor families and especially the elderly with food. Programmes are just getting underway, and so far they have helped 120 families and 45 elderly.

Selim says Caritas is also able to send aid to the conflict-hit city of Homs. The city has been a centre for the opposition. Heavy fighting over control of the city between the opposition and the government began twelve months ago and climaxed in March 2012 with a major government offensive.

Homs was home to more than 1 million people before the violence broke out. The sprawling city has suffered more casualties than any other part of Syria. Many residents have fled, and several neighbourhoods like Baba Amr and Khaldiya have been extensively shelled and have witnessed running street battles.

Before the fighting, Homs’ was mostly Sunni Muslim with large Christian and Alawite communities. The Syrian Orthodox Church says that 90 percent of the Christian population, over 80,000 people, has fled Homs. They’ve mostly sort safety in the mountains, says Selim.

It’s too dangerous for Caritas staff to travel to Homs, so the aid is distributed through local church workers. Some Jesuits have decided to stay in the city, giving an heroic witness through the provision of humanitarian aid to people in need and trying to bring about peace at the community level.

Selim says the needs are great in Homs and elsewhere, with acute lack of food, medicines and other basics. But he says Caritas is helping where it can.

*Name changed


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