Nearly three months after the Syrian Army liberated the city of Aleppo from ISIS control, the local population is facing harsh living conditions in a city left in ruins after nearly six years of fighting.
In an interview with the French aid organization L´Oeuvre D´Orient,
Father Ziad Hilal who carries out his pastoral ministry in Aleppo, said
that the cost of living in Syria has gotten more expensive.
“Previously, the dollar used to be worth 50 Syrian pounds, today it
is equivalent to more than 520 Syrian pounds. Ten times more! The people
of Aleppo lack money to live on, few people have a job.”
“They need food, fuel, they have to pay tuition for the children,
university students, for milk for the children. They have to pay for
electricity generators for each family,” Fr. Hilal said.
“Several thousand people are there in the Aleppo region. They are
often without shelter, or housed in old factories. They need everything.
Others are close to Idleb (southwest of Aleppo) on the border with
Turkey, in Damascus, in Lebanon. Others have taken refuge in Europe.
There are also some who have remained in Aleppo by going over to the
west side,” Fr. Hilal said.
The Jesuit priest explained that after the evacuation of the rebels
from the eastern part of the city, “the situation has gotten a little
better, but a lot of rebels still remain in the surrounding villages.
There are exchanges of gunfire and shelling between Aleppo and the
“East Aleppo is almost destroyed. There is a military presence but the people can't return there,” he said.
“Despite that, people are going out on the streets, they can go
shopping, the children are calmer. On the other hand, neither
electricity nor water have been restored to the city. After the
fighting, we had ten days with the water supply cut off which was very
trying for everyone. That's why people aren't coming back right now,
even if some of them want to. Even more so because it's been a rough
winter this year, we've had two snowfalls,” Fr. Hilal said.
“The Church must now come alongside the refugees, the displaced,
those marginalized. The people of Aleppo come not just to pray but also
to get help.”
He stressed that this situation “is not easy work for the priests, the men and women religious, but we're taking this on.”
For example, the six Catholic churches in Aleppo work together to run an initiative called “the milk place.”
Each month they distribute milk to about 2600 children in Aleppo. The
churches also distribute food baskets, hygiene supplies, and pay for
tuition and housing for families.
Fr. Hilal said that the reconstruction of Aleppo is premature “as
long as there is no peace in the country.” However, he said that they
are studying with a number of organizations the possibility of
rebuilding some churches and destroyed houses.
“The Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari and Mgr. Dal
Toso of Cor Unum, came three weeks ago to evaluate the situation.”
“On the other hand, we can't expect electricity to be restored here
for at least a year because the network was completely destroyed by the
fighting. It would take millions and millions of euros to rebuild it,”
he said. “Who's going to pay for that? You have to invest in the city.
You have to have hope.”