People in Syria made homeless by last month's earthquakes are the focus of a fresh package of aid just agreed by a leading Catholic charity. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has just approved a programme, working in partnership with the ecumenical Joint Church Committee of Aleppo, helping around 430 families with rent for temporary accommodation.
Xavier Bisits, ACN head of projects for Syria, said that, until repairs can begin, the priority is "to rent temporary lodgings for those families who cannot return to their houses, because it is neither sustainable, nor dignified, for them to continue to sleep on the floors of Church halls".
The families who are being given rent for up to year are unable to return home because of structural damage to the buildings. Some of the houses will have to be demolished after a government assessment found them to be structurally unsound.
Mr Bisits said at least 60 buildings in Aleppo collapsed in the earthquake, but the number of houses that will need to be pulled down will probably be in the hundreds. He said: "The engineers say that even if the building itself is not in ruins, there could be structural damage and it may be necessary to tear it down. In any case, we are working with the local churches to help the families with their rent, so that they can remain in a safe place while the buildings are inspected or repaired, as we do hope that they can be repaired in some cases."
And a fresh survey revealed around 2,500 Christian homes in Aleppo are in desperate need of repair.
A further 15 families living in the Armenian quarter of Aleppo are already receiving aid for rent through a partnership with the parish of the Annunciation. This includes Clemente, an elderly Syrian of Armenian descent, who is now unable to return to her home.
She said: "My brother is an engineer and he surveyed our house. He told us that it was too badly affected and that we should move out. We live on the fourth floor, and a neighboring wall fell on our house. A huge block of stone fell on our veranda. Everything is destroyed".
Thanking ACN for the help, Father Hugo Alaniz, parish priest of the Annunciation, said: "We are very grateful for your assistance to be able to help them, and they thank the Lord for our presence, which gives them relief and support.
"Thank you, thank you for being with us."