Seismic response

Food relief. Shelter. Education. One year after earthquakes devastated Aleppo in Syria, communities are still receiving vital humanitarian assistance.

 WALKING WITH THE EXCLUDED 

By Zach Martorana, Communications Officer, Jesuit Mission,  
with additional reporting by Deborah Niski   

Abed, his wife Khadiya and five of their six children were in their small house in one of the poorest parts of the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo when the first of two earthquakes struck on 6 February 2023. They all survived, but their home – previously damaged during the civil war raging in Syria since 2011 – collapsed. The family were trapped for several hours before they were finally able to escape.  

That day, the quakes struck Syria and Turkiye, leaving a death toll of more than 50,000, with countless homes and buildings destroyed.  

But because of donations to our Syria Earthquake Response Appeal, we enabled our local partner Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Syria to be among the first on the ground to provide immediate help to devastated and grief-stricken communities. In vulnerable communities in Aleppo, around 15,500 survivors, including Abed’s family, received food, winter kits and psychosocial support.  

“We received some food that really helped us, but what I value the most is the way they (JRS Syria) approached us and cared for us. We received – and still receive – the emotional support we need,” says Abed.  

He, Khadiya and their children have since moved back into their home and are slowly repairing the widespread damage. Still coming to terms with the disaster, Khadiya receives support from the JRS psychosocial support team, including personal sessions that are specifically tailored to survivors. “Thanks to the sessions,” she says, “I’ve learnt how to respond and manage stress during and after these kinds of events, and I now feel stronger and more confident, but it’s not easy. It’s a long process.” 

A year after the earthquakes, your support is helping JRS Syria provide structured, long-term support that includes food relief and shelter, as well as education for children, in addition to other forms of aid recovery.  

Jesuit Mission Australia’s Syria Earthquake Response Appeal provided immediate assistance to those most affected in Aleppo, where the Jesuits were already actively supporting refugees. 

In the year since the earthquakes struck, thanks to the generosity of the Australian Catholic community, more than 44,000 women, men and children have received emergency assistance, including food, warm clothing, shelter, healthcare and vital psychosocial support. This life-giving response is being delivered by JRS Syria in partnership with Jesuit Mission Australia and the Xavier Network 

“A crisis will shake the foundations of any community, but compassion and solidarity have the power to rebuild them,” said Helen Forde, CEO of Jesuit Mission Australia. “We are so grateful for the heartfelt generosity of our Jesuit Mission family as Syria’s vulnerable population face more trauma and terror. Thank you to those who supported our earthquake appeal. Your generosity continues to restore hope and empower resilience.”  

Amidst the sombre reflection on the one-year anniversary of the earthquakes, Jesuit Mission remains steadfast in its commitment to rebuilding shattered lives. Using the funding already raised, the Jesuits are committed to continuing the programme of emergency support activities to help the long-term recovery of those affected by natural disasters and conflict.

As the journey towards recovery continues, Jesuit Mission urges supporters to continue to keep the people of Syria in your thoughts and prayers.  

To make a donation to Jesuit Mission Australia’s Emergency Response Fund, please click here or alternatively, please call 02 8918 4109. 

Jesuit Mission Australia (JMA) works in more than 10 countries across Asia and Africa to uphold the innate dignity of people living with the effects of poverty, especially the most marginalised and vulnerable. Funds from JMA supporters:  

  • Break cycles of poverty through teaching and education;  
  • Protect the health of communities by providing medical care and programs that improve access to clean water and toilets; 
  • Develop independent, sustainable communities through livelihood training and income-generating projects; 
  • Provide vulnerable individuals with pastoral care, social inclusion and advocacy  
  • Support refugees in crisis;  
  • Enable effective disaster response and relief. 

Banner image shows a child carrying cartons of JRS supplies in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Jesuit Mission Australia