Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — As the conflict in Syria continues to escalate, disrupting the lives of more than one million Syrians, displacing 56,000 people from their homes according to UN estimates, and leaving thousands of families without access to food and urgently needed medical care, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is intensifying its current response efforts to meet the surging humanitarian needs for emergency medical aid, food and basic necessities for Syrian families displaced in their own country.
Working in partnership with the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA) in Syria, IOCC is coordinating with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and other local relief partners to reach and distribute aid for the affected families in hard hit regions such as Homs, as well as to provide humanitarian relief to displaced families who have made it to relatively safer areas like Damascus. IOCC and GOPA recently delivered much needed medical supplies such as bandages, surgical gloves, sterilizers, stethoscopes, and surgical kits for distribution to Al-Hosn Hospital in the Homs area, a non-profit hospital affiliated with the Orthodox Church that provides charity care, and to other underequipped hospitals and clinics in the Homs region.
In early spring as Syrians living in some of the most volatile areas of conflict struggled to find even the most basic food items to feed their families, IOCC responded with food parcels to feed 2,000 people. Since March, more than 38,000 people, from infants to the elderly, have received emergency humanitarian items distributed by IOCC including hygiene kits, infant kits, family bedding sets, and household item kits.
IOCC and GOPA continue to work with relief partners as well as local Islamic and Christian community representatives to reach families living in the affected areas of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Tartous and other regions that have been impacted by the unrest, and to deliver emergency relief to households with the greatest need; youth, female-headed households, families with many children, and disabled, ill, and elderly persons and their caregivers.
Along with the need for food and medical care, IOCC and DERD are also assessing the rapidly growing need for housing assistance for families forced to flee their homes and their jobs in volatile regions. Many seek shelter with friends and family in Damascus, sometimes crowding as many as four families into tiny apartments designed to house only a few people.
Syria currently hosts one of the largest urban refugee and asylum-seeker populations in the world, with more than one million refugees from neighboring Iraq. IOCC is part of a small group of international humanitarian organizations working in Syria, where since 2007 it has been providing assistance to Iraqi refugees. "Through the strong and trusting relationship between the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and IOCC, we've been able to pool our skills and resources together to successfully address the needs of Iraqi refugees living in Syria," says IOCC Executive Director, Constantine M. Triantafilou, "and it is from that experience that we are now able to extend a humanitarian hand to all Syrian people, and continue our mission to offer emergency relief, without discrimination, during this difficult time."
As the conflict drives more Syrian families to flee across their borders into Lebanon and Jordan, IOCC is coordinating relief efforts with UN agencies and the Orthodox Church in those countries to identify emerging needs and to ensure displaced families are receiving assistance.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHARITIES
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has delivered more than $400 million in relief and development programs to families and communities in 50 countries. IOCC is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and relief agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help the victims of poverty and conflicts around the world, like those in Syria, by making a financial gift to the International Emergency Response Fund , which will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need.
To make a gift, please visit www.iocc.org , call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.