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The Marist Blues – Aleppo

14/12/2012: Syria

Since our letter of 26 October, there has been hardly any change in the military situation on the ground. Despite street fighting, bombardments, car bombs, snipers, assassinations and abductions, neither of the two parties in conflict has gained the upper hand in Aleppo.

On the other hand, the humanitarian situation is catastrophic. Everything is wanting : bread, water, electricity, petrol, gas and fuel, to name only the essentials. These products exist in other Syrian towns at the normal price. But supplying Aleppo is impossible, all the roads leading into or out of the city being in the hands of the rebels who prevent these products coming in. And when they can be procured, it is at prices beyond what most people can afford : bread ten times the price, petrol five times, fuel (for heating) 12 times,  gas (for cooking) 9 times the price. The people of Aleppo are cold (it is winter), hungry and desperate. Moreover, electricity is rationed, when it is not completely cut off, as it was a few days ago when the principal electric power center was bombed, leaving the city in total darkness for 48 hours. The people had no water (no electricity = no water supply). The cold was glacial, they could not count on the electric stove for lack of fuel to feed the stove or the central heating.

Communication is very difficult : portable phones, internet, international communications are interrupted most of the time. To leave Aleppo is an impossible task : by road, there is the risk of being abducted or killed, or by plane, there is the danger of drawing fire on the road to the airport which has killed more than one. The number of displaced keeps on growing : a summary check on the sick who consult me in the clinic shows me that 80% no longer live at home and have moved in with relatives or friends who live in the still « safe » zones. Life has become so dear that even the middle class are not succeeding in surviving. So what can be said for the poor and the displaced for whom we have the responsibility !

With the « Marist Blues », we continue our work with the displaced. The morning is given over to the distribution of food and health supplies and to the « medical point » where we have between 30 and 50 patients a day. In the afternoon, the adults of our group with the 2 Brother Georges visit the families, and the youth with Brother Bahjat look after the children. Our project « I want to learn » aims at giving the displaced children the basics of writing and  arithmetic. The displaced suffer a lot from the cold, the classrooms where they live not being heated. They must be content with the thick pullovers and blankets we have provided for them. But we have installed in each school an electric water heater to let them take a warm bath (when electricity and water are available !)

Our project « the Mountain basket » is in its 5th month. As we have told you, it aims at providing a basket (full enough to feed a family) of supplies once a month to the Christian families without resources in the Djabal Al Saydé quarter to give them the vital minimum for survival. On Sunday 2 December, the distribution of the 4th monthly basket to 291 families took place. The 5th is planned for Christmas Eve and will include for the first time a kilo of meat. This will be the feast, on Christmas day, for these families who have not tasted meat for  5 months now.

All the Aleppins, including our displaced, poor and volunteers, are suffering from weariness and despair before this situation which has lasted for 5 months in Aleppo and 21 months in Syria. They see no end to the tunnel. They have had enough of the noise of bombs and guns, of poverty, privation, hunger, cold, destruction, displacement and death which threatens at every instant. They suffer from seeing their city and their country in the process of being destroyed ; they have lost all hope for the future.

What consoles us is the solidarity network that has been created around us. First of all, the relatives and Syrians of the diaspora who do not miss an opportunity to show their  attachment and their love for the Syrians in place and their country of origin. And then, certainly, all of you: friends, acquaintances, or friends of friends who have supported us and continue to do so in various ways.

To all of you, in the name of our teams of the « the Ear of God », the « Marist Blues » and the  « Mountain basket », I wish to say Thank you for your solidarity, your friendship and your love. We wish you a Christmas of Joy and Peace. May our Lord, God of love and peace, bring our nightmare to an end and revive in us this Hope that, after the darkness, light will break out so that, once again, we can live in peace and security.

For 2013, we wish you the best.

______________
Aleppo, 12 December 2012.
Nabil Antaki, for the « Marist Blues »

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