By John Pontifex

More than 20,000 families in Syria are to benefit from an emergency COVID-19 aid package just approved by a leading Catholic charity.

Food baskets, face masks, sanitary items, and other coronavirus protective equipment are being funded by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The aid, which is being distributed by Catholic and Orthodox communities, includes urgent help for:

  • 7,860 families in Homs
  • 6,190 families in Aleppo
  • 3,700 families in and around Lattakia
  • 1,200 families in the Valley of the Christians
  • 1,200 families in Damascus
  • 400 families in Hassake and Qamishli

Explaining that ACN is providing each of the families with €25 (£22.50) to buy food and COVID-19 protective equipment, Thomas Heine-Geldern, ACN (International) executive president, said: “[€25] may not seem much but it represents approximately half the monthly income of an average family and is thereby a lifesaver.”

The aid, approved yesterday (Wednesday, 20th May), is being rushed out amid growing calls – including at the United Nations – for humanitarian aid for Syria where there are mounting concerns that a huge coronavirus outbreak is imminent.

As yet, only 64 cases have been reported officially, mostly in the Damascus governorate and further south, but it is feared the virus could quickly spread across the country especially after the government eased its COVID-19 lockdown.

Heine-Geldern said: “[ACN’s] emergency support will reach many people. However, it must be implemented without delay, before the pandemic spreads throughout the country.”

The aid also comes in response to increased concerns about deepening poverty in Syria, a problem worsened by the pandemic, with many more people unable to find work.

The ACN aid program, worth more than €500,000 (£450,000), is aimed at reaching Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant communities, especially in towns and cities devastated by bombardment during the country’s nine-year civil war.

Among others benefitting are families in north-eastern Syria, where there has been recent fighting.

This Syria aid package comes on top of ACN’s ongoing emergency and pastoral relief programs in the country, including the ‘Drop of Milk’ scheme which provides hundreds of babies and young children with milk supplies.

In April ACN announced a €5 million (£4.5 million) COVID-19 aid program for worst-affected countries around the world.

More ACN coronavirus projects are due to be approved in the coming weeks.

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