Source: John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need
Posted 15 January 2016
Food has become “the most deadly weapon of war” in Syria, according to a leading Catholic charity’s Middle East projects coordinator, who says both government and rebel forces are blocking humanitarian aid to force entire communities on the brink of starvation to submit to their rule.
Rev Andrzej Halemba, from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said that many groups were preventing food aid from getting through in an attempt to weaken the resistance of opposition groups.
Fr Halemba, who is in constant communication with Church leaders in Syria, said the crisis was putting extra pressure on ACN and other organisations to increase emergency help to areas open to aid. Such regions have become a magnet for people fleeing aid-blockaded areas.
“Forces on both sides, government and rebels alike, are preventing humanitarian aid from getting through in an attempt to subdue the people,” he said, adding that rebels had taken humanitarian aid and sold it to the highest bidder to generate funds.
In Madaya, a town north-east of Damascus, people have reportedly starved to death. “There are quite a few places like Madaya where people are in desperate need but where help is not getting through,” Fr Halemba said.
Amid reports that up to four million people in Syria are living in areas cut off from aid, he cited statistics showing that, since the violence began nearly five years ago, 280,000 people had been killed in conflict but that 350,000 had died from lack of medicine and other essential supplies.
ACN is building up emergency aid programs in centres such as the capital, Damascus, which is receiving thousands of people fleeing Madaya.
Since the conflict began in March 2011, ACN has provided $16.14 million in aid for Christians and others in the country. Of that figure, nearly 60% ($9.6 million) was provided last year alone.
Fr Halemba urged renewed prayers for Syria, especially for 79 Christians kidnapped in the Assyrian villages near Hassake and held by Daesh at its stronghold of Raqqa in the north of the country.
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